THE VIEW FROM RIZAL
By DR. JUN YNARES
“Does a calamity need to happen before the national government takes decisive action?”
That was the tenor of the many text messages we received in the aftermath of the great habagat which flooded many areas in Metro Manila. The howl from our texters seem to have been triggered by observations shared by many that the massive swelling of the river systems that pass through the cities of the metropolis may have been caused by the continuing destruction of our hills and mountains, especially by the quarrying and mining operations there.
Our response to the uproar was simple and direct to the point: we would rather thank the national government for finally acting on an earnest plea made by the Rizal provincial government than to engage in finger-pointing or ranting. True, many wished that the action had come earlier. What matters is an action has been taken and we are grateful for it.
Thank you, Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy Cimatu.
We are grateful because the province of Rizal had long clamored for a moratorium on quarrying and mining activities. We had long ago foreseen the ill effects of such operations on the environment. We are grateful because the good secretary has done what others may have preferred to simply consign to the inbox or the backburner.
We recall that as early as October of 2010, we had pleaded to the national government to order a moratorium on the issuance of mining and quarrying permits. I was the provincial governor of Rizal at that time, and had focused the energies of the provincial government on the protection and preservation of mountainous and watershed areas. This was in line with our aspiration for the rehabilitation of Laguna Lake, a body of water crucial to the economic and social life of several provinces in the Southern Tagalog Region.
I wrote the national leadership: “Silts coming from unabated and indiscriminate land development and resource extraction of the areas of the Lake region will continue to make the Lake vulnerable to sedimentation.”
I recounted to the national leadership that the provincial government had ordered the immediate cancellation of all mining and quarrying operations right after the devastation wrought by Typhoon Ondoy. The Mines and Geosciences Board (MGB) later submitted a report noting that close to 80 percent of the nearly 180 hectares being quarried were permitted by the national government itself through the DENR-MGB.
In 2013, Rizal Governor Nini Ynares approved a resolution passed by the Provincial Board declaring a moratorium on the acceptance, processing, and approval of permits, contracts, and operating agreements on quarrying and mining activities in the province.
In the same resolution, Governor Nini pleaded to the DENR to declare on its own a moratorium on the renewal of permits and licenses of medium and large-scale mining activities and operations.
She reiterated that plea to the DENR the following year, 2014.
Just this year, Governor Nini issued a memorandum circular dated June 18 – barely two months before the great habagat – suspending all quarry and mining operations in Rodriguez, Rizal. She then ordered the review and inventory of all Environmental Clearance Certificates issued by the national government for such operations in two municipalities — San Mateo and Rodriguez.
We are glad that on Monday of last week, August 13 – two days after the rush of water from Marikina river flooded its environs – Director Noemi Paranada of EMB Region IV-A finally acknowledged receipt of a copy of Governor Nini’s Memorandum Circular and recommended that Secretary Cimatu cancel all the ECCs issued to quarry and mining operators in the towns of San Mateo and Rodriguez.
True, the action may have been made after the great habagat had already wrought havoc and after many years of pleading to the national government by the Rizaleños.
Still, we are grateful for the attention given by the national government to this concern and the decisive action done by Secretary Cimatu. His move to stop all quarrying and mining operations in response to the clamor and to the recent flooding is both decisive and a bold one.
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