The new administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was urged by the Masungi Georeserve Foundation to immediately act on their request to prohibit quarrying operations in the area.
In a statement Friday, July 1, the Masungi Georeserve Foundation said that the continued existence of quarrying agreements despite their suspension under the Duterte administration “[pose] an existential threat” to Masungi landscape.
“Some Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) and environment officials have given statements that there is no need to cancel quarry agreements here since they [quarry companies] are not operating anyway. This is not the issue. The continued existence of quarrying agreements [pose] an existential threat to the entire Masungi landscape and parts of the Upper Marikina Watershed,” the Masungi Georeserve Foundation said.
“The government must not condone projects that are contrary to law, especially when they pose a high risk to public safety, biodiversity, and restoration efforts. They must be categorically canceled at the earliest opportunity,” it added.
It can be recalled that former Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Acting Secretary Jim Sampulna had issued suspension orders to sister quarry companies Rapid City Realty and Development Corporation and Quarry Rock Group, as well as to Quimson Limestone Inc.
According to the foundation, all of the three quarry companies hold Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSAs) that cover more than 1,300 hectares of protected areas and wildlife sanctuaries.
However, the Masungi Georeserve Foundation has been asking the government to officially cancel the MPSAs since they said the “mere” suspension order served to the quarry companies could be lifted or renewed again. The 25-year terms of the MPSAs are set to expire in 2023 and 2024.
“The continued interest of these quarry companies is obvious. Two of the quarry companies, Quarry Rock and Rapid City (sister companies), have said in their answers to Show Cause Orders that ‘they will not give up their advocacy to revive the economy,’” it added.
Various groups of environmentalists and experts have appealed to the government to cancel the large-scale quarrying agreements found within the Masungi and Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape.
The call to cancel the quarry agreements was bolstered by the support from various local chief executives including Mayors Joy Belmonte, Marcy Teodoro, Vico Sotto and Jaime Fresnedi of the local government units of Quezon City, Marikina, Pasig, and Muntinlupa, respectively.
Rangers of the Masungi Geopark also emphasized that quarrying in protected areas, national parks, and proclaimed watershed reserves is explicitly banned by the law, with “no exceptions.”
At present, Marcos has yet to name his DENR chief.
The department is currently being headed by Asst. Sec. Joseline Marcus Fragada, who serves as an officer-in-charge (OIC) after Sampulna was ordered replaced by former Pres. Duterte on June 23, a week before his presidency ended.