GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/27 October) — The provincial government of South Cotabato plans to establish common quarry sites in each of the province’s 10 towns and lone city in a bid to properly regulate the ongoing quarry operations in the province.
Engr. Siegred Flaviano, acting chief of the Provincial Environment Management Office (PEMO), said the move aims to stop rampant illegal quarry operations which has destroyed some rivers in the process.
“Some of our major rivers were showing signs of rapid degradation due to excessive scouring by quarry operators,” he said.
Flaviano said this problem is evident at Topland River, which traverses Koronadal City and Tampakan town, and in some river-tributaries in the province’s upper valley area.
Two of the province’s biggest rivers – Allah and Banga – are located in upper valley area, which covers the municipalities of Surallah, Banga, T’boli, Norala, Sto. Nino and Lake Sebu.
Last week, he said the provincial government collected P144,000 in penalties from several quarry operators based in Surallah town due to violations of their permits. He said the erring operators were penalized for extracting quarry materials beyond the allowable limits.
To help curb the problem, Flaviano said the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB) endorsed last week their recommendation to close down the existing quarry areas and instead identify and develop a common quarry area in each of the province’s 10 towns and lone city.
The PMRB, which is co-chaired by the provincial government and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Mines and Geosciences Bureau, oversees quarry and small-scale mining operations in the province.
Flaviano said the local government, in coordination with the MGB, will identify and jointly develop the proposed common quarry sites.
PEMO will assign one regular employee to each of the common quarry sites to monitor and oversee the quarry operations, he said.
Flaviano added they will establish a database that will record all extractions made by quarry operators.
“(The PMRB) initially approved the establishment of a pilot common quarry site and the crafting of new regulatory and monitoring mechanisms for such purpose,” he said.
In the meantime, Flaviano said they will stop the issuance of special quarry permits and pursue the rehabilitation of the quarry areas that would be covered by the planned closure move.
He said the special quarry permits, which lasts only 60 days but may be renewed twice, were issued by the provincial government for quarry sites not located within the river systems.
“We will only issue regular quarry permits and operators will be later directed to utilize the common quarry sites. All the other quarry areas, aside from the common quarry areas, will then be considered illegal,” Flaviano said.
Based on their records, he said they have so far issued 20 regular quarry permits in the entire province. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)