DENR suspends quarry permits in Upper Marikina watershed, says sites are inactive anyway

MANILA, Philippines – The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources on Wednesday suspended mineral production sharing agreements (MPSAs) in the Upper Marikina watershed that had been granted to three companies.

Acting Chief Environmental Officer Jim Sampulna has signed orders suspending MPSAs granted to Rapid City Realty and Development Corporation, Quimson Limestone, Inc. and Quarry Rock Group, Inc after the Masungi Georeserve Foundation alleged that said agreements “have no prior rights” and were “cancelled from the beginning.”

An MPSA gives contractors the right to operate in a contract area.

“With respect to and pending the investigation of said allegations, all activity in the MPSA contract area is hereby suspended,” the orders state.

In a briefing, Sampulna said that the three companies with MPSAs in the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape in Rizal Province have not been operational since 2004. According to a statement from the department in April, an MPSA will expire in 2023, and the other two will expire in 2024.

“We want to avoid further speculation. This means the pinapalabas pirmi na can operate in the area. For wala ng speculation, alisin natin ‘yung nila authority to operate para wala nang isipin ‘yung mga tao,” Sampulna said.

(We want to avoid further speculation. People give the impression that there are operations in the area. To end speculation, let’s remove their authority to operate.)

Cancellation, not suspension

Groups have called on authorities to immediately cancel, not simply suspend, quarrying agreements in the 26,126-hectare protected area.

“This is due both to violations of their contracts which are grounds for cancellation and to their location inside a critical watershed and protected area where quarrying is prohibited by law. “said Ann Dumaliang, Managing Director of Masungi Georeserve Foundation.

Under Section 18 of Republic Act 11038 or the National Extended Integrated System of Protected Areas Act of 2018, it is prohibited to undertake mineral exploration or extraction within the protected area.

“Ordinary citizens and conservationists cannot be reassured that the quarries can renew their contracts and retain an interest in this area. There must be a full and long-term commitment to conservation of this sensitive landscape and this can only be demonstrated by the categorical cancellation of mining concessions,” she added.

The integrity of the watershed has been degraded by decades of illegal logging, quarrying and mining activities and the construction of settlements such as resorts.

Last month, Malacañang called on the DENR to investigate alleged illegal quarrying and mining activities, and the reported construction of resort facilities in the Upper Marikina watershed and Masungi landscape.