SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/15 August) – Quarrying activities by illegal operators continue unabated in one of the municipalities of Surigao del Norte despite the local government’s ban on extracting sand and gravel, government officials admitted.
Ivonnie B. Dumadag, head of the Provincial Environment and Management Office (PEMO), said theft and pilferage still occur in the town of San Francisco town (formerly Anao-aon) by itinerant quarry operators which she said cannot be avoided.
To address this, Gov. Sol F. Matugas has ordered the setting up of a security team whose members are to be called quarry enforcers who will be posted in the quarry areas all over the province, the provincial environmental chief said.
Dumadag said 50 enforcers will be assigned to quarry sites 24/7 to ensure monitoring and apprehension of violators.
In San Francisco, Mayor Simplicia P. Bacol said the prohibition on sand and gravel extraction is still in effect, saying her office and her constituents have already seen the destruction brought about by quarrying activities, including the continued siltation along the Anao-aon River.
The town experienced heavy flooding early February this year, which some residents blamed on the rampant quarry activities within their area.
Bacol said all the quarry operators in her town are no longer operating but she said there is still ongoing theft. “We can’t seem to totally stop theft,” Bacol explained.
As early as last January, the municipal council passed a resolution against the extraction of sand and gravel.
With its ban on quarry operations, Bacol complained of the continuing extraction activity in the neighboring barangay of Ipil in Surigao City.
“Quarry operators in Ipil have secured a permit from Surigao City so their operations continue,” the mayor lamented. She stressed that the operators have already done so much damage, even destroying part of her town.
Dumadag, on one hand, explained the present debacle is being resolved by “dividing the river through an imaginary line” where Barangay Ipil continues to allow quarry operations.
She said the issue will be further discussed in a meeting with town mayors and the City Environment and Natural Resources Office on August 22.
The said meeting aims to further discuss the Implementing Rules and Regulations relating to quarry operations under the Small Scale Mining Law.
Meanwhile, the number of permit holders went down this year compared to the previous years because of the failure of some applicants to submit the required the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) and other pertinent documents, Dumadag said.
The official added she will give the complete list of the operators who complied with all the requirements by this week.
In August last year, Gov. Sol F. Matugas issued Executive Order No. 007 suspending all quarry operations in the province, citing the rampant violation of environmental laws by quarry operators. (Roel N. Catoto / MindaNews)