Governor Arthur Defensor, Sr. has ordered a temporary suspension or moratorium on issuance of new quarry permits within the province’ five major river systems. The directive was contained in Executive Order (EO) 227 which he signed on Wednesday (August 23, 2017).
“The unabated extraction of sand and gravel along these river systems have resulted to the damage and deterioration of the structural integrity of bridges, irrigation dams, and other public and private infrastructures as reported by the monitoring team of National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) VI…” part of the order reads. The river systems referred to in the order are: Aganan, Jalaur, Sibalom, Suage and Ulian river systems.
Earlier, the Regional Project Monitoring Committee (RPMC) and Infrastructure Development Committee (IDC) of the Regional Development Council (RDC) raised alarm over the ill effects of excessive quarrying on rivers to existing public infrastructures such as bridges and dams.
In a related development, Gov. Defensor also signed EO 226 regulating the use of backhoe in the extraction of sand and gravel materials in certain areas within the river systems. The governor noted that “the unsupervised use of backhoe results to uneven extractions and elevations along the river bed, creating deep holes and pools which endanger the lives of people and animals living near or passing through the quarried area.” The use of backhoe will only be allowed if it is indicated in the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) issued by the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB).
Another exemption is, if the material available in the quarry area is composed of at least 60% gravel as determined by the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO). Further, only backhoes with maximum bucket size of not more than one cubic meter shall be allowed to operate in the approved permit areas.
Meanwhile, Gov. Defensor also issued EO 225 creating an Inter-agency Task Force for Rapid River Assessment of the major river systems in the province. The rapid river assessment would determine the extent of the effect of continuing sand and gravel extraction and to determine the volume of materials still available as well as the alternative sources of sand and gravel for ongoing and future projects.
The inter-agency task force is composed of the following: PENRO of the Iloilo provincial government as chair, Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) as vice chair, and PENRO of DENR and the EMB as members.