BATANGAS, Philippines – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) latest policy banning “prospective” open-pit mines in the country has put the spotlight on quarrying, which was excluded in the ban.
In a Business Mirror report, for instance, Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) Vice President for Legal and Policy Ronald Recidoro was quoted as saying, “Don’t they realize that banning open-pit mining means banning quarrying and even coal?”
In the story, Recidoro asked Environment Secretary Gina Lopez if she’s favoring First Balfour, which has a registered quarrying company, Torreverde Corporation.
On Sunday, April 30, First Balfour already denied that its wholly owned subsidiary is currently engaged in any mining or quarrying operation.
Reporters who went on site in Taysan, Batangas – not Lobo, Batangas – saw no ongoing quarrying operations in the area.
But Emmanuel Balamban, the operations head of Torreverde Corporation, said they will push through with their plan to quarry once they secure a quarrying permit from the provincial government.
“Definitely, [we will push through], dahil sa demand ng construction industry sa Pilipinas and siyempre in support na rin sa 4th of the 10-point agenda na economic agenda ng administration natin ngayon which is to support the infrastructure of the Philippines,” Balamban told reporters in an interview on Sunday.
(Definitely, we will push through because of the demand of the construction industry in the Philippines, and also in support of the 4th of the 10-point economic agenda of the current administration which is to support the infrastructure of the Philippines.)
Torreverde Corporation entered into an operating agreement with Montevil Trading Corporation, who owns the land in Taysan, Batangas.
Montevil Trading Corporation also has two quarrying sites in the area, but only one of the two are operational.
Asked to react to COMP’s statement, Montevil Trading Corporation Operations Director Antonio Villena said it depends on the quarrying operation.
“Kagaya sa amin, kumbaga ito, privately owned na land ‘to, ang purpose namin dito, i-develop lang, i-level up lang namin para magamit pa namin for future. ‘Pag kasi sinabi mong open-pit, ‘yung iba kasi nilalaliman nila. Paano itong area namin, mataas? ‘Pag inopen-pit ko ‘to kagaya sa kanila, lalalim ‘to dahil mataas ang pwesto ng Taysan,” he told reporters on Sunday.
(To me, it depends on the quarrying. This is a privately-owned land, our purpose is to develop it, to level it for future use. When you say open-pit, some dig deeper. How about our area here? If I do open-pit here, it will go way deep because Taysan is located in a high place.)
Czael Ontangco of Montevil Trading Corporation added: “Nile-level lang talaga siya, so walang maiiwan na malaking pit after the quarrying.” (And we’re only leveling the land, so no huge pit will be left here after the quarrying.)
In fact, the plan of the company after the land has been leveled is to turn it into a solar farm.
“Sinasabi kasi lagi sa DENR, gusto nila, ‘yung mga subdivision, pero kami, ang gusto namin, kasi renewable energy ngayon, flatten namin ‘to, gagawin naming solar farm,” Villena revealed.
(They always say to DENR that they want subdivisions, but for us, because we’re going into renewable energy, we want to turn this into a solar farm once we’ve flattened it.)
Asked if this is also the plan for the land that will be used by Torreverde for its future quarrying operations, Villena said that for now, their agreement only includes leveling and rehabilitation of the land.
“Kumbaga, pwede mo pa rin siya mataniman. Mag-iiwan kang kaunting top soil para at least mailalatag mo sa pinag-quarryhan mo (You should still be able to plant there. You will leave a part of the top soil so you can use that over your quarrying area.),” he added.
Noemi Paranada, regional director of the environment department’s Environmental Management Bureau in Calabarzon, admitted that both quarrying and open-pit mining are “destructive.”
“Same lang ang effects [ng open-pit mining and quarrying], effect niyan sa vegetation like this, ‘pag inalis mo ‘yung top soil, vegetation, sira na ‘yan, at the same time ‘yung habitat, at the same time ‘yung water system, at the same time ‘yung ground water – ‘yun ang effects for open-pit mine, at the same time for quarrying. Destructive, of course, ang impact noon.”
(They have the same effects. It’s effect on vegetation like this, when you remove the top soil, the vegetation will be destroyed, at the same time the habitat, at the same time the water system, at the same time the ground water – that’s the effects for open-pit mine, at the same time for quarrying. It’s impact is destructive, of course.)
Asked why she thinks her boss exempted quarrying in the latest order, Paranada said companies submit “remedial measures,” but these also need to be strictly implemented.
“‘Pag nakita mo na ‘yung basalt, mga boulders na pwedeng gagawing aggregates, hanggang doon ka na lang. ‘Di ka na deep doon sa area, kasi ‘di ka naman naghahanap ng kung anong associated minerals na nandoon,” Paranada explained.
(In quarrying, when you see the basalt, the boulders that you can turn into aggregates, you stop there. You don’t go deep in the area, because you’re not looking for associated minerals there.)
This is not the first time quarrying was exempted in a DENR order. In a memorandum signed last March 10, Lopez excluded certain quarry resources from her department’s mining moratorium.
Lopez will again face the powerful Commission on Appointments (CA) on Tuesday, May 2. (READ: Are the odds stacked against Gina Lopez in the CA?)
The CA had earlier bypassed the appointment of Lopez, who was reappointed by President Rodrigo Duterte. The President had expressed his strong support for the controversial Cabinet official whose appointment is being contested by mining groups.
Lopez is also at odds with some Cabinet members, particularly Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, over her decision to suspend and shut down some mining operations based on a DENR audit. – Rappler.com
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