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Climate and Environment

DENR suspends quarry permits in Upper Marikina watershed, says sites idle anyway

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
DENR suspends quarry permits in Upper Marikina watershed, says sites idle anyway
This February 7, 2021 photo shows the forest around Masungi Georeserve in Baras, Rizal.
Philstar.com/EC Toledo IV

MANILA, Philippines — (Updated, May 30 8:22 a.m.) The Department of Environment and Natural Resources suspended Wednesday mineral sharing production agreements (MPSAs) within the Upper Marikina watershed that were granted to three firms.

Acting environment chief Jim Sampulna signed orders suspending MPSAs granted to Rapid City Realty and Development Corporation, Quimson Limestone, Inc., and Quarry Rock Group, Inc after Masungi Georeserve Foundation alleged the said agreements "do not have prior rights" and were "void from the beginning." 

An MPSA gives contractors the right to mine within a contract area.

"In regard and pending the review on the said allegations, any activity within the MPSA contract area is hereby suspended," the orders read.

In a briefing, Sampulna said the three companies issued with MPSAs in the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape in Rizal province have not been operational since 2004. According to a release from the department in April, one MPSA will expire in 2023, and the other two will expire in 2024.

"We want to avert further speculations. Ito kasing mga tao pinapalabas pirmi na may operation sa area. Para wala ng speculation, alisin natin ‘yung authority nila to operate para wala nang isipin ‘yung mga tao," Sampulna said.

(We want to avert further speculations. People are making it appear that there are operations in the area. To put an end to speculations, let’s remove their authority to operate.)

Cancelation, not suspension

Groups have been asking authorities to immediately cancel, not merely suspend, quarrying agreements within the 26,126-hectare protected area.

"This is because of both breaches in their contracts that are grounds for cancelation and their location inside a critical watershed and protected area where quarrying is prohibited by law," said Ann Dumaliang, managing trustee of Masungi Georeserve Foundation.

According to Section 18 of Republic Act 11038 or the Extended National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 2018, undertaking mineral exploration or extraction is prohibited within the protected area.

Dumaliang stressed that non-operation or even a suspension is not a guarantee that quarry operations will not commence in the future, noting the previous statement of the operators of Quarry Rock and Rapid City that they will “not give up on their advocacy to revive the economy.”

"Ordinary citizens and conservationists cannot take comfort that the quarries can renew their contracts and still harbor interest in this area. There needs to be full, long-term commitment to conservation for this sensitive landscape and that can only be shown through categorical cancellation of existing mining tenements," she added.

The integrity of the watershed has been degraded by decades of illegal logging, quarrying and mining activities, and construction of establishments such as resorts.

Last month, Malacañang called on the DENR to probe the alleged illegal quarrying and mining activities, and the reported construction of resort facilities in the Upper Marikina watershed and the Masungi landscape.

“We humbly and continuously call on Malacanang, President Duterte and the leadership of DENR to intervene and place the safety and welfare of an overwhelming majority over the business interests of a few,” Dumaliang said.

DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES

IPO AND UPPER MARIKINA WATERSHED

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