SARIAYA, Quezon: The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) recently closed down several quarrying operations in this town for violating environmental laws.
“You can put a church inside the hole they made,” DENR Undersecretary Art Valdez told The Manila Times in an interview after the agency cancelled on Friday permits of several quarrying operations in this town.
The operation was carried out by a special task force created by DENR central office composed of members of the police, military, coast guard and the National Bureau of Investigations (NBI). The team was led by Valdez.
Valdez said almost all the 27 firms holding quarrying permits in Sariaya violated their Environmental Compliance Certificates (ECCs), leading to their cancellation.
“Matagal ng ginagahasa ang slope ng Mount Banahaw. Kapag umulan ng malakas, sa bayan ang bagsak ng mga malalaking bato [It has been a long time that the slopes of Mount Banahaw is being ravaged. So when there is a heavy downpour, the big rocks cascade toward the town],” Valdez said.
The composite team arrested 15 people and impounded nine dump trucks and a couple of backhoes. The confiscated equipment were impounded at the NBI compound in Lucena City.
Valdez said quarrying entities whose ECCs were cancelled can still reapply but stressed there is a need to rehabilitate the slopes of Mount Banahaw.
The DENR’s closing of quarrying operations in Sariaya followed the cancellation of the agency of the ECCs of housing company Century Communities Corporation and mining firm Austral-Asia Link Mining Corporation for non-compliance with environmental regulations.
“Laws are laws – we must follow these,” Environment Secretary Gina Lopez said in a press conference in Metro Manila on Friday.
“ECC is a tool for social justice,” Lopez said. “Social justice means all Filipinos can access and benefit from the country’s natural resources.”
Lopez said Century Communities failed to furnish DENR and Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System clearances that the government requires for the company’s proposed 58-hectare housing project within La Mesa watershed in Quezon City (Metro Manila).
Century Properties failed to comply with government’s requirements for protecting groundwater there, she also said.
Austral-Asia’s nickel mining operations lie between a bonsai forest and a bay classified as protected area, Lopez said.
“The way Austral-Asia mines is putting biodiversity there at risk,” she noted, citing as an infraction the absence of a stockpiling area for this company’s operations.
DENR will ask Austral-Asia to explain the matter.
Lopez reiterated DENR will review and evaluate some 800 other ECCs in the country and identify which of these have public impact so the agency can act accordingly.
WITH REPORT FROM PNA