President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Monday ordered the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to strictly regulate local quarrying operations in Albay in the aftermath of Typhoon Rolly that devastated many parts of Bicol region.
“I came from Albay and iyong chopper ko ibinaba ko sa Guinobatan. And so I talked to the residents there and ang complaint nila ganito. This is their agony: Every time there is a typhoon, there is always the danger or it happens that the stones and the boulders and the lahar always go down the river and bring destruction to the habitation of people,” President Duterte said during the situation briefing on the effects of Typhoon Rolly.
Residents in the area complained that the same dangerous quarry procedures in their area have been going on for years and pose a threat whenever there is a typhoon, President Duterte said.
To protect residents of Guinobatan, President Duterte said he will see to it that quarry operations should have “the proper environmental clearance,” underscoring the need to strictly impose safety nets to secure nearby communities especially during typhoons.
“So ‘pag wala then I think that you’ll have to stop it in the meantime. Mayroon pa namang bagyo coming one after the other. In the meantime that we are suffering destructions, it might do well for them also to look for another site. Ganun na lang,” he said.
In the situation briefing, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu reported that the DENR has already conducted an initial investigation on the complaints of residents in Albay about quarrying.
DENR’s investigation found that stockpiles and boulders left by quarry operators in the middle of rivers blocked the normal flow of water and were eventually carried along by strong flood waters into the residential areas, Cimatu told the President.
“And some of these operators left their stockpiles in the middle of these rivers. Kaya noong bumaba ‘yung tubig, malakas, dala-dala ‘yung lahar pati ‘yung mga stockpiles nila doon, boulders ay kasama na,” he said.
“And the rivers nag-swollen ‘yung river, umaabot doon sa mga residential houses sa bank of the river. Apat po ang namatay, tatlo ang na-crash at saka na-buried ng lahar.”
To prevent further accidents and damages during the upcoming typhoons, the Environment secretary said he has directed the suspension of an estimated 11 to 12 quarry operations.
Additionally, Cimatu said the DENR will also look into the permits given by the provincial government to the quarry businesses and the department is doing an investigation to determine accountability.
If culpability is proven in the granting of permits, Cimatu said the DENR will shut down the operations of quarry operators involved.
In addition, the DENR will also look into the procedure being followed by quarry operators.
“And at the same time, Mr. President, iimbestigahan natin pati ‘yung procedure nila ng pag-quarry kasi dapat hindi nila ganyan ilalagay ‘yung kanilang stockpiles nila doon sa river mismo kasi nabawasan na tuloy ‘yung volume doon sa pagbagsak pababa ng tubig sa ibabaw,” he said.
The local government of Albay was advised to “be very strict in the implementation of quarrying” and ensure that only those who are authorized by government can conduct quarry operations, he said. PND