BENRO: at least 2 Bukidnon LGUs run illegal quarry operations

Samuel Cadavos, BENRO chief, said LGUs exploit natural resources without acquiring "government gratuitous permits" (GPP).

"It is the towns that do illegal quarrying," he told provincial board members last Wednesday. Cadavos during the session named two towns, Kalilangan and Pangantucan, as among those they have engaged in a legal tussle over alleged violations.
 
He said if LGUs construct road projects in their areas, they still need to get provincial government approval.

He urged legislators to pass an ordinance ordering mayors, among others, to cooperate with the provincial government in the use of the quarries.

Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri, Jr. issued an executive order for barangay governments to monitor quarry operations in their area.

"But there's a missing link between the barangays and the provincial government that's why the proposed ordinance," Cadavos told MindaNews.

Board member Glenn Peduche, environment committee chair, asked Cadavos to submit a recommendation for his proposal.

Cadavos stressed that they can't collect taxes from LGUs but the law requires, at least, the granting of permits.

He said quarry operators, including the LGUs need to tell them the volume so they could monitor and assign where to extract materials.   

Last month, board member Rogelio Lago requested the appearance of BENRO officials at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to inquire if government earns from quarry operators.

Cadavos said the province exceeded revenue targets set for sand and gravel and small-scale mining in 2007, earning P1.2 million and P447, 000 in actual revenues, respectively.

 

As of March 2008, BENRO has approved 19 permits and earned at least P273,000 or 21 percent of the P1.3 million target, Cadavos said.

But Lago alleged that is minimal and that BENRO failed to monitor and implement closely its regulation policies on quarry operations.

"I don't believe we can only earn P1 million what with big extractions," he said, adding the provincial government, through the BENRO, must do something.

But he dismissed as "not valid" an allegation earlier given by BENRO that lack of vehicle hindered their monitoring job.

"You can use your RATA (representation and transportation allowance)," he said.

Lago called for a stop of all illegal quarry operations in the province to force them to get a permit.

He also noted that even government projects are not exempted from getting Environmental Compliance Certificates (ECCs).

Cadavos admitted to MindaNews that LGUs engaged in illegal quarrying operations claim they have permits. LGUs assume, he said, that if they already have a memorandum of agreement with the Capitol over a road project, for example, that is enough.  

"But a MOA is not enough. The LGU must get a permit. That's separate," he told Mindanews after the session.

He also denied Lago's accusation that they failed in monitoring. "The revenues we collected are proof that we have monitored," he said. He said they have fielded a BENRO staff in each town to monitor extractions.

Lago asked Cadavos why BENRO did not push them to acquire a permit during his administration as town mayor when the latter pointed out that Baungon was among towns that did not have a permit.

Lago put Cadavos to account for the legal basis of BENRO's mandate and the names and locations of the quarry permit holders, to which the latter responded that he will provide a data base.   

Cadavos assured they will charge higher extraction fees, such as charging P100 instead of P10 per cubic meter.

Gov. Zubiri has mulled creating a monitoring body separate from BENRO, Cadavos said, over the concern that they are both a permit-giving and monitoring body. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)

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