THE Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has recommended the lifting of the suspension order against 91 quarry firms operating around the Mayon Volcano in Albay.
MGB Director Wilfredo Mancao said that the recommendation was made as the 91 quarry operators were found to be compliant.
Aside from being compliant, Mancao explained that there is an urgent need to empty and restore the capacity of the river channels around Mayor Volcano.
It will be recalled that DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu ordered the suspension of all quarry operations around Mayon Volcano following the lahar flow during the onslaught of Super Typhoon Rolly last month that submerged several barangays from mudflow.
Following the suspension, Cimatu created a task force led by the MGB to look into the possible liability of quarry companies in said lahar flow.
Based on the investigation conducted by the task force, Mancao disclosed that only 15 out of 106 suspended quarry operators have permit violations.
According to Moncao, there is a compelling need to lift the suspension order insofar as the “compliant” quarry firms are concerned.
“An increased rate of quarrying is needed to empty and restore the capacity of the river channels, so that when rain comes with eroded material from the slopes of Mayon Volcano, the restored river channel can serve as the pathway to accommodate and remobilize the eroded material,” Moncao explained.
He said these companies may be allowed to continue their operations, subject to strict monitoring under the terms and conditions of their existing permits.
“These quarry firms were proven to have followed quarry regulations, such as not operating beyond their permit area and having an active Environmental Compliance Certificate,” Moncao said.
At the same time, Moncao dismissed claims that quarrying operations around Mayon Volcano were largely to blame for the lahar flooding that buried some 180 houses and killed at least six people at the height of Super Typhoon Rolly.
He stressed that lahar flow has “always been a likely occurrence in Mount Mayon whenever there’s heavy rainfall, thus making the houses near the active volcano naturally prone to mudflows.”
“The quarrying has an insignificant contribution to the lahar flow devastation caused by Super Typhoon Rolly because it was a combination of huge volume of water, combined with stocked lahar that came from the slope and foot of Mayon Volcano,” he added.
Meanwhile, Moncao said his office will forward to the Environmental Management Bureau the case of the 15 erring quarry operators for “technical review and possible sanction or payment of penalty.”
He said immediate rehabilitation of the areas quarried by the violators will also be implemented.