Marikina watershed quarries: 2 cancelled, 2next – Loyzaga

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

Two of four dubious rock quarries inside Marikina watershed have been cancelled. The two remaining are in the process of cancellation. Sec. Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga announced this at the Senate hearing Nov. 16 on the 2023 budget of her Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources.

If so, this solves the foremost cause of deadly floods below: Marikina, San Mateo, Cainta, Antipolo, Quezon City, Pasig and San Juan, among others. Hundreds died in 2009 and 2020 when mud and heavy rains gushed onto thousands of homes, shops and vehicles there.

Marikina watershed in the mountains of Rizal province consists of forests, rivers and ponds. Although inoperational, quarries there host illegal woodcutters, slash-and-burn farmers, rich squatters and a dozen unlicensed swimming pool resorts. Forest denudation, hill levelling and river diversion trigger flash floods and mudslides.

On questioning by Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III, Yulo-Loyzaga said she cancelled the quarries for being inoperational since 2004. Cancellation forecloses extension after the 2024 expiration of permits.

Only the DENR secretary can initiate the process and actually cancel Mineral Production Sharing Agreements over mines and quarries. Yulo-Loyzaga spoke under oath at the Senate.

For whatever reason, however, she has not publicized the signed cancellations. Unanswered to date is a Nov. 23 request from the Upper Marikina Watershed Coalition for copies of the cancellation notices and status reports.

UMWC secretariat head Anna Maria Eliza Reyes invoked transparency in writing Yulo-Loyzaga. Two groups of ethnic Dumagat Remontados also thanked Yulo-Loyzaga for closing the quarries that encroach on and desecrate ancestral lands and burial grounds.

Yulo-Loyzaga subalterns disavow the quarry cancellations. On Nov. 21, Mines and Geosciences Bureau Southern Tagalog regional director Dondi Sarmiento told Reyes: “Our records show there are no Orders of Cancellation for the MPSAs within the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape, [only] Orders of Suspension issued on May 25, 2022.”

Goons of resort owners continue to harass park rangers of Masungi Georeserve that overlaps with the quarries. Authorized in 2017 by then-DENR head Gina Lopez, Masungi Georeserve Foundation rangers have been rewilding with indigenous trees 3,000 hectares of protected watershed.

Excerpts of the Nov. 16 Senate hearing:

Pimentel: I am just alarmed. Is it possible? May MPSA covering some 1,500 hectares in the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape and nearby protected areas? Could that theoretically happen or is that allowed by law? That an MPSA exists inside a protected area?

Yulo-Loyzaga: Mr. Senator, the information we have on record, the MPSAs were granted prior to the designation of the protected area. Right now po, two are already canceled and the other two are recommended for cancellation na po.

Pimentel: So apat lang po lahat yan?

Yulo-Loyzaga: Yes po.

Pimentel: Naninigurado lang po ako. So two cancelled. When you say cancelled, effectively cancelled – talagang no more activity?

Yulo-Loyzaga: Cancelled na po.

Pimentel: And two for cancellation. Anong timetable natin dito?

Yulo-Loyzaga: Sir, there is a three-letter notice and a 90-day period before it finally takes effect.

Pimentel: More or less, can you give me the month and year they have effectivity?

Yulo-Loyzaga: The recommendation for cancellation was two weeks ago. So there’s a 90-day period from then before effectivity.

Pimentel: Sabay sila?

Yulo-Loyzaga: Yes.

Pimentel: So these will be cancellations for cause or these will be cancellations which will be contested by the holders of the MPSAs?

Yulo-Loyzaga: For cause po.

Pimentel: And then the two cancelled, did they accept the cancellations?

Yulo-Loyzaga: The information we have on record is that the two that were cancelled never operated, did not operate.

Pimentel: So that was easy for you. Dito tayo sa more difficult. These two that are about to be cancelled, operated?

Yulo-Loyzaga: The remaining two have not operated since 2004.

Pimentel: OK so basta ang mangyayari, all the four will be formally and officially cancelled. Therefore after the effectivity, we can say that there is no more MPSA inside the protected area of the Upper Marikina River Basin. That’s a fact?

Yulo-Loyzaga: Yes sir.

*      *      *

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