Three mayors of Metro Manila cities located at the downstream of the Upper Marikina Watershed and Masungi Geopark Projec urged the national government to cancel three large-scale quarrying agreements, saying their operations may cause widespread flooding.
In a statement, the local officials along with other environment groups said it is their constituents who would suffer once flooding similar to devastation brought by Typhoons Rolly and Ulysses occur.
The statement was signed by Marikina Mayor Marcy Teodoro, Pasig Mayor Vico Sotto, and Muntinlupa City Mayor Jaime Fresnedi.
The local officials’ action echoed a similar request from Rizal Governor Rebecca Ynares in 2020 who in turn issued a memorandum 2020-01 that urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to cancel all mining tenements in Rizal Province to mitigate floods.
Various groups of experts, civic leaders, and indigenous people have appealed for the cancellation of three Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSAs) covering more than 1,300 hectares after DENR Acting Secretary Jim Sampulna reportedly opted to suspend the MPSAs which have not operated for 24 years rather than cancelling them.
The groups also asked for the removal of land accountability for the unabated construction of illegal permanent structures in the watershed, including swimming pool resorts and rest houses.
The group cited a flood modeling study by the Manila Observatory which stated that the continued deforestation of the Upper Marikina Watershed can significantly increase the extent of flooding in low-lying reaches.
"With only about 11 percent of forest cover left in the watershed, the devastation of life and property can be even worse than what was experienced during typhoon Ondoy," the statement read.
Scientists from the National Museum of the Philippines also warned that major land and hydrologic disturbances in the sensitive Masungi karst landscape, such as quarrying and land clearing, can have expensive consequences.
Featuring ancient limestone pinnacles and mountains of the Southern Sierra Madre, the area has been protected since 1904 through Executive Order 33 designating it as the Mariquina Reservation. It received additional protection from quarrying and exploitation from Presidential Proclamation 1636 in 1977 declaring it part of a National Park, and Presidential Proclamation 296 in 2011 creating the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape.
Both the protected areas act (e-NIPAS) and the Philippine Mining Act ban quarrying in national parks and proclaimed watershed reserves. In addition, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) itself said that the quarrying companies committed breaches in their contracts that are grounds for cancellation.
In 1993, former DENR Secretary and National Scientist Dr. Angel Alcala penned Department Administrative Order 33 recognizing the geological and ecological importance of the Masungi landscape and banned the application of quarrying tenements therein. Masungi is home to endangered and endemic species such as the Indigo-Banded Kingfisher, the ultra-rare JC’s Vine, Philippine Hawk-Eagle, Colasisi parrot, and North Luzon Giant Cloud Rat.
Starting in 2017, the Masungi Geopark Project is a non-profit, award-winning legacy project of the administration which aims to restore degraded and abused watershed areas surrounding the limestone formation. It has rescued 2,000 hectares of land for restoration, established 17 km. of monitoring trails and ranger stations, and engaged 100 park rangers and 200 partners from various sectors in reforestation, despite serious risks faced by rangers and team members.
All of these gains, environmentalists say, will be lost once again if quarrying agreements are not canceled. Before the president steps down from office, this final action for the environment is requested to preserve an outstanding legacy.