Responsible quarry operation to save Albay from mudflow
By Rhaydz B. Barcia
Regulated and responsible quarry operations will help save Albayanos from mudflow as it will remove and desilt river channels in Albay, Cedric Daep, chief of Albay Public Safety Emergency Management Office, said.
Daep said that quarry operations will help the desilting process of silted river channels if it is done properly. His pronouncement came following the controversial quarry operations in Albay, which was subjected to a probe after the occurrence of super Typhoon “Rolly.”
To recall, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered a probe through the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) after residents in Guinobatan blamed quarrying around Mayon as the major cause of the remobilization of walls of volcanic materials here.
Duterte visited the survivors of flash floods triggered by “Rolly” in Albay on Nov. 1, 2020. Earlier, the quarry operation in Albay was first investigated through a legislative inquiry in 2018.
“Quarry operation is good if it is regulated and done properly as it will desilt the silted river channels around Mount Mayon specifically in the southeast quadrant of the volcano where the bulk of volcanic materials ejected in 2018 explosions,” Daep said.
Based on the record of the provincial government, there are 141 quarry concessionaires across the province as of July 19, 2018.
Out of the 141 quarry concessionaires, at least three of them voluntarily came out and revealed cases of irregularities in the quarry operation in 2018. The Albay Sangguniang Panlalawigan investigated the irregularities during the incumbency of former vice governor Harold Imperial.
One of the houses in Banag village in Daraga town, which was affected by rampaging mudflow from the foot of Mount Mayon at the height of Typhoon “Rolly” on Nov. 1, 2020. (Rhaydz B. Barcia)
On Nov. 1, 2020, a wall of volcanic debris remobilized in the towns of Guinobatan, Camalig, Daraga, Malilipot and Tabaco City and upper portion villages of Legazpi City. Out of five areas in Albay where the mudflow occurred, two villages of Guinobatan such as San Francisco and San Rafael were devastated including Banag in Daraga.
The villagers of Guinobatan blamed the massive quarry operations, which according to them caused the mudflow in the villages of San Francisco and San Rafael during the height of super Typhoon “Rolly.”
The complaint was brought to the attention of President Rodrigo Duterte during his visit in Guinobatan town early this month. Duterte ordered DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu to conduct a probe on quarry operation in Albay.
Subsequently after the President's directive to Cimatu, a task force was created and sent to Albay to conduct a probe.
Guillermo Molina 1V, MGB Bicol director, said investigators from the Task Force Quarry sent by Cimatu conducted a probe and reviewed the documents of 106 quarry operators.
Out of 106 concessioners, at least 15 operators were found not complying with the provisions of permits issued by the Albay provincial government.
According to Molina, nine operators were found to be extracting sand and gravel in areas outside of their quarry areas as provided in the permit, while the rest had no permits, or were operating with expired permits.
Molina reiterated that quarry regulations allow the concessioners to extract aggregate in the river channels not to exceed five hectares of a town.
Of the 15 operators, Sunwest is the sole industrial sand and gravel permit, allowing it to stockpile extracted aggregates while the rest are considered commercial quarry operators allowed to haul and load extracted aggregates here.
Among the quarry concessioners or operators found with violation and could be sanctioned were Sunwest Construction (Legazpi), and Sunwest Construction (Daraga), Sanrho Builders, John Michael Freno, Lawrence Lubiano, NFH Construction, WCD Construction and Supply, AMEG Construction and Supply, and Maria Lourdes Leoncito.
These quarry operators are extracting aggregates around Mayon Volcano may face sanctions following the violation committed according to MGB official here.
The Task Force finding according to Molina will be submitted to the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), which could recommend the suspension of the issued Environmental Clearance Certificate (ECC) or for the violators to undertake rehabilitation in the areas where quarry practices were violated.
Albay Gov. Al Francis Bichara said that under his watch the income in quarrying operations rose from P10 million during then Gov. Salceda’s term to P200 million.
“Under my term, we strictly enforced the provincial ordinances and permits to all concessionaires for the provincial government to collect what is due to it, unlike before. So, from P10 million income yearly in the past administration, we were able to collect P200 million. But the pandemic lessens the collection from quarrying operations,” Bichara said.
The provincial government of Albay is relying on quarry operation as one of the major sources of income that will help the rehabilitation process of the province. But Bichara ordered the stoppage of quarry operation specifically in Guinobatan following the probe ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte.