Heeding Vox Populi

Published January 25, 2021, 1:08 AM

by Dr. Jun Ynares


Dr. Jun Ynares
Dr. Jun Ynares

The implementation of a truck ban by the Province of Rizal commenced this past week.

As we explained in one of our recent columns, the ban covers trucks and other vehicles hauling products from the province’s large mining and quarrying entities. Nearly 200 such vehicles were stopped and apprehended at various outposts set up by the provincial government to carry out the ban.

The truck ban was an option adopted by the Rizal provincial government in its bid to heed the proverbial “voice of the people.” Its constituents have long clamored for the revocation of the so-called Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) which national government agencies issue to entities engaged in large-scale quarrying and mining.

We said that Rizaleños share the worry prevalent among residents of the eastern portion of Metro Manila that recent massive floods have been due to the activities of the large mining interests. They also expressed the hope that a well-preserved natural environment which the province has been gifted with may be part of the inheritance of future generations of Rizaleños.

The provincial government conveyed this aspiration to concerned national government agencies and to our legislators. The MPSAs must be revoked, the Rizal provincial council pleaded.

It appears the province is still waiting for the appropriate response in terms of decisive action, policy modification, or legislation.

As no new guidelines and policies have been formulated, the Rizal Provincial Council decided that it must take action based on Vox Populi.

The imposition of a ban on trucks and other vehicles that are used to haul aggregates, cement, and other products of large-scale mining and quarrying in the province is one such action.

Based on the council resolution, vehicles which attempt to transport these products from their point of origin within the province to their destination – and which use routes within the province’s jurisdiction – will be stopped. They are no longer allowed to proceed with the delivery of the products.

This truck ban within the province of Rizal followed the required period for publication of issuances by the local government. The affected entities were duly advised.

The fact that nearly 200 trucks appeared to have defied the ban raised certain questions.

Did the parties involved doubt that the Provincial Government was serious when it announced the forthcoming ban?

Did they doubt the will of the local government to implement actions based on the voice of the people?

Did the parties involved feel that the move of the provincial government could be overturned by other entities in government?

The fact is that the Rizal Provincial Government has been left with few options. As it was explained in the past, it cannot unilaterally void the permits issued by national government agencies. Such move is beyond the purview of its powers and the operators of these entities know that fact.

So, it appeared that despite the plea of the local government and its memorandum stopping all mining and quarrying operations, these activities have surreptitiously resumed. They cannot be faulted for doing so. After all, these business entities carry valid permits issued by national government agencies.

The Provincial Government is, therefore, constrained to look for other means to advance the interest of its constituents. After all, this is the local government’s mandate – to heed and act based on Vox Populi.

Again, for the record, the province recognizes the contribution of large-scale mining and quarrying sector to its bid to create and sustain jobs, fuel the growth of businesses that support these industries, and raise revenues from local taxes. As we said, the province has not overlooked such contribution.

That has also been the reason advanced by national government agencies in their justification for not revoking the MPSAs they have issued. They explained that the construction industry may be crippled if the aggregates and cement produced by large-scale quarrying interests are stopped. These agencies have also time and again rejected allegations that these activities are the root cause of the massive floods that perennially plague the eastern part of Metro Manila.

The Rizal provincial government, however, has stood firmly in its position that its primary responsibility and accountability are to its constituents. The provincial leadership is obliged to listen to them, to understand their aspirations for themselves, their families, and their future – the things that constitute their primary interests.

The provincial government has been advised that the truck ban may be contested in court by the affected parties.

According to the local government, it is prepared to defend its move before any court and will abide by whatever decision such a court may hand down.

In the meantime, Vox Populi prevails.

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