The provincial government, through its legal office, said today that the rampant abuses on previously issued quarry permits have caused the non-issuance of new permits by Governor Jose Chavez Alvarez. The said statement addresses the complaint of the Palawan Contractors Association Inc (PALCAI) who, in last Tuesday’s session with the Provincial Board, cited that the provincial government’s non-issuance of permits is a prime factor in the current lack of quarry material sources in the province.
Policy against abuses
Provincial Legal Officer and Governor’s representative in the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB) Atty. Teodoro Jose Matta said that contrary to the claim of PALCAI there are existing legal quarry permittees in the province. However, he added, they have been receiving reports of abuses particularly on delivery receipts.
“Ang paggamit ng delivery receipt naabuso. Whether may gumagamit ng magic pen na nabubura ang tinta or may mga erasures. That’s why during the start of my term as representative to the PMRB we made a rule na no erasures and no alterations pero nakakalusot pa rin,” Matta said.
According to Matta, the said abuses prompted Governor Alvarez to put on hold the issuance of new permits until a “policing system” on quarry operations in the province is in place. Matta said that Alvarez wanted permits to be granted not only to those who have the money but to People’s Organizations as well, who will benefit from the resources.
Matta added that based on a study conducted in 2015 by the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office there were over-extractions of quarry materials in areas of Southern Palawan, prompting the agency to recommend the closure of such areas. Likewise, the Department of Public Works and Highways also found out in their 2015 survey that quarry areas in Northern Palawan have suffered from over-extraction; the Department has since then recommended the sourcing of gravel and sand from areas outside Palawan.
Matta also explained that the creation of the Municipal Sand and Gravel Cooperative Regulatory System (MSGC) prescribed in PMRB Resolution P-52-2015 is a result of their thorough study on how to address proper resource management, particularly on quarry operations. According to him, the creation of MSGC renders well-representation for the community, and empowers them to monitor and report to the PMRB possible violations by quarry permittees.
“May consultation ito at pati ang PALCAI na-brief namin tungkol dito,” Matta said.
In response to Atty. Leo Legazpi, legal counsel of PALCAI, and the argument that there are provisions in the said PMRB resolution that might raise some legal problems when it is implemented, Matta said that, “Quarrying is not a right. It is a privilege accorded to the state because it has environmental implications. It is a resource managed by the state. So kung quarry owner ka, if you want to enjoy the privilege, this is what you have to comply with.”
Matta said that they are piloting MSGC among five quarry permittees in the town of Aborlan and, once proven effective, they will pave for the approval of other permittees in the province.
“Kailangan lang makita ni Gov (Alvarez) that the system works,” he added.
On the issue of ‘yellow trucks’, which bear the name of the provincial or municipal government, and whose operations were questioned by PALCAI in terms of legality, Matta explained that the vehicles are mainly for hauling stockpiled materials left by abandoned quarry operations. He also cited additional reasons, such as permittees who allow the local government to extract from their designated areas. Matta nonetheless admitted that there are certain areas in the province where government trucks and equipment are being used by local chief executives.
“Hinuhuli rin namin ang mga ‘yan but since truck din namin ‘yan, pinapagalitan at kinakausap namin ang mga mayors na kumuha sa legal source,” he said.
He further said that he will propose to the PMRB to file cases against contractors who obtain their gravel and sand supply from illegal sources. This was prompted by PMRB’s observation that there are contractors who just keep paying fines while continuing to receive supply through illegal means.
“Para patunayan namin, lahat ng namultahan kasuhan for theft of minerals para hindi magduda ang taong bayan,” he stressed.
Matta admitted that there is indeed a huge gap between the supply and demand of quarry materials in the province. This is potentially driving up the cost of quarry materials but Matta emphasized that the provincial government is trying to control the price from surging and to maintain it at Php700, including the regulatory fees and hauling costs.
The provincial legal officer is optimistic that in September this year there will be additional legal sources of quarry materials because Gov. Alvarez is due to sign new quarry applications, following the successful pilot of MSGCs in Aborlan. It should be noted, however, that there are municipalities that outright did not endorse any quarry application, such as Coron and Busuanga; the municipality of Bataraza initially did not endorse permittees but has since re-opened the possibility of endorsing operations in the area.
PALCAI on Tuesday has raised before the Provincial Board of Palawan what they perceived as “inaction” of the provincial government to their request for dialogue to thresh out issues pertaining to the non-issuance or non-renewal of quarry permits in the province, which subsequently affected their contract with the government due to lack of sources for quarry materials. This problem was also confirmed by the DPWH chiefs of the three engineering districts in the province.
According to Matta he is willing to sit down with PALCAI so the provincial government could extend assistance in the fast-tracking of the applications in areas where they (PALCAI) have projects.