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EMB suspends 47 quarry operators in Bicol

By Celso Amo LEGAZPI CITY --- The Mines and Geo-Science Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has suspended 47 out of the 192 quarry operators in Bicol for violation of environmental laws. Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu has ordered the suspension of quarry operations in Bicol , Ilocos, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Central Visayas, Northern Mindanao, Davao, and Caraga regions last September 21 based on their safety assessment. Byron Soratos, MGB information officer, said quarry operators who were suspended were operating in Camalig, Albay; Irosin and Sta Magdalena in Sorsogon; Baao in Camarines Sur; Jose Panganiban in Camarines Norte and in Masbate. He said quarrying operation should not threaten communities lying near or below the site. But he added that the MGB is encouraging quarry operators in Irosin, Sorsogon who are mainly focused on sand and gravel extraction that include large boulders from Bulusan Volcano that continue to block river channels and cause flash floods. Soratos said 69 quarry operators earlier suspended were given the go signal to operate after they complied with safety and environmental requirements. Meanwhile, the MGB personnel are going to inspect the quarry operation in Barangay Muladbucad Grande and Pequeño in Guinobatan, Albay. Joel Bertis, Barangay Muladbucad Grande environment officer, said villagers in the threatened barangays fear they will be buried alive when there is sustained heavy rainfall due to lack of safety guidelines and indiscriminate quarrying operation in the area. Strong typhoons are expected to pass through Bicol in the last quarter of this year. “Quarry operators are already inside five kilometer zone from the slope of Mayon Volcano and they are operating at a higher location threatening the barangays below,” said Bertis. He said quarry operators are expected to remove the volcanic debris clogging the river channels to prevent flash floods. “But the location of their quarrying is threatening the lives of the villagers in the barangays,” he added. Heavy trucks carrying volcanic sands and boulders enter the two barangays starting 2:00 a.m. up to 12:00 p.m. daily that virtually turn the barangay road unpassable to small vehicles. He also said that an official of Albay environment office and Guinobatan Mayor Gemma Ann Ongjoco had already inspected the area. “We don’t want to suffer the fate of villagers in Barangay Maipon who were buried alive by volcanic debris which were brought down by torrential rains when super typhoon Reming devastated Albay in 2006,” said Bertis.

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