Gov. Arthur Defensor, Sr. directs Provincial Environment and Natural Resources (PENRO) chief Atty. Arturo Cangrejo to intensify the monitoring of quarry operations in the province following the report of the Regional Project Monitoring Committee (RPMC) of the Regional Development Council (RDC) that several infrastructures in the province are in danger due to excessive quarrying on rivers.
The Regional Project Monitoring Committee (RPMC) and Infrastructure Development Committee (IDC) of the Regional Development Council (RDC) expressed concern over the ill effects of excessive quarrying on rivers to existing infrastructures. National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) 6 regional director Ro Ann Bacal, chair of RPMC, called for an inter-agency meeting to tackle the matter at the Governor’s boardroom on Wednesday, August 2, 2017.
Present in the meeting were Gov. Arthur Defensor, Sr. and other provincial officials and regional officials of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), and Environmental Management Bureau (EMB).
Bacal disclosed that in an inspection conducted by the RPMC team last July 6, 2017 they have discovered that the NIA diversion dam in Brgy. Anonang, Leon is in danger of being damaged severely because of the lowering of the riverbed caused by massive quarrying downstream. The team also inspected the old and new Suage bridges in Janiuay, Iloilo and noted that they are at risk due to the continued erosion of the riverbed resulting to exposure of the bridges’ foundations.
The RPMC team also reported that the foundations of the Jalaur bridge in Calinog are already exposed due to the degradation of the riverbed. Bacal said the team found out that quarrying activities happen within the one kilometer distance from the bridge which is supposedly not allowed under rules of the DENR. They also noted that quarry operators engage in excessive quarrying as they excavate more than the prescribed one meter extraction depth resulting to scoured river banks and degraded river beds.
Gov. Defensor acknowledged the observations of the RPMC and he immediately directed Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) head Atty. Arturo Cangrejo to intensify the monitoring of quarry operations in the province. He said excessive quarrying especially on rivers must be stopped because it could cause destruction of government infrastructures and could cause disasters especially in communities surrounding the river systems.
To recall, Gov. Defensor called for the First Provincial Mining & Quarry Summit last November 9, 2016 in the midst of the construction boom in the city and province of Iloilo. During the summit, he asked the MGB to help them identify alternative areas for quarry operations like the mountains to spare the river systems from too much extractions.
As of August 2016 there are 65 small scale mining permittees in the province composed of the following: commercial sand and gravel (CSAG) – 51, industrial sand and gravel (ISAG) – 14, and government gratuitous sand and gravel (GGSAG) - 1. Cangrejo said these small scale mining permittees operate on 14 river systems in the province.
Meanwhile, there are 61 quarry permit holders in the province under the following classifications: ordinary earth – 35, limestone – 20 and basalt – 6. He said there are quarry operators which engage in over extraction of quarry materials allotted to them while others engage in illegal quarrying activities. Cangrejo said the province is planning to amend an existing ordinance to increase the penalties of violators in order to deter them from committing the same.