Concerned residents in Coron are demanding the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to stop quarrying operations in their town immediately due to the lack of environmental assessments, required permits, and public consultation.
A letter from Coronians posted Monday by Niña Gonzales on her social media account, addressed to Sec. Roy Cimatu of DENR and Sec. Eduardo Año of DILG, claimed that quarrying operations in the town are being carried out “without let-up” and have already damaged hills and mountains owing to reclamation projects.
“We represent concerned citizens and residents of Coron, Northern Palawan. We are concerned that quarrying and reclamation activities have been undertaken in Coron without let up despite the absence of environmental assessments, other pertinent permits, and the absence of extensive consultations among Coron residents,” the Coronians said in Gonzales’ post.
Additionally, Coronians inquired if the DENR issued Environmental Compliance Certificates (ECCs) for the quarrying activities.
Coronians said they are unaware of the purpose of the quarrying aggregates or if the “so-called infrastructure development projects” are based on any updated comprehensive land-use plan, annual development plan, or annual investment plan”.
“If so, we demand that the DENR conduct an immediate review of these ECCs in light of the serious environmental damage that such quarrying and reclamation have caused and order the immediate stoppage of these activities,” they said.
“Our Constitution, the Local Government Code (LGC), and various environmental laws provide for participatory processes in the pursuit of development projects. Sadly, we do not see the implementation of these policies and laws in Coron,” they added.
READ RELATED STORY: DENR stops illegal quarry operations in Coron mountain
Coronians said they are already experiencing negative consequences as shown by siltation in mangrove and coral reef areas.
Due to the reclamation projects, mangroves that maintain sustainable coastal and marine ecosystems have been devastated. The health and safety of Coron residents have been jeopardized by the pollutive dust produced by such quarrying and reclamation efforts. The community has been flooded as a consequence of extractive and infrastructural development operations, they claimed further.
“Clearly, this so-called infrastructure development- and related activities have threatened the only natural resources and environmental assets that Coron has, and which have provided livelihood opportunities to its community. We regret that Coron’s political stewards have allowed these destructive projects to continue. Concerns on the possibility of bribery need to be investigated,” the Coronians said.
In July 2020, the DENR stopped a large-scale quarrying operation in Coron that was chopping down a big section of the mountain to provide infill materials for a reclamation project and numerous government infrastructure projects.
A notice of violation (NOV) on the project was issued by the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), leading the quarrying operations to be halted.
According to Luchie Cabantoy, a Coron municipal councilor and head of the Sangguniang Bayan’s infrastructure committee, the quarrying operation lacks a license from the DENR or the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD), as well as an environmental compliance certificate.
Ongoing signature campaign; case build-up vs contractors
Gonzales said in a separate interview that the Coronians are currently engaged in a signature drive to push the DENR and the DILG to react positively to protect the environment in their municipality.
She said the sites being quarried are mostly in the barangays of Decalachao, San Nicolas, and Poblacion 6.
They’re also building up cases against the project contractors, BCT and Mercado Construction companies.
“We have ongoing signature campaign. We’re working on case build-up for criminal complaint against BCT and Mercado construction company,” she said, citing that the contractor has recently transferred its quarrying in another area in Coron.
Call to determine reclamation project’s appropriateness
The Coronians say that quarrying and reclamation efforts must cease immediately and that a complete investigation be conducted to examine the need and appropriateness of such quarrying and reclamation activities.
“As a steward of our resources, we compel government agencies to uphold our rights to healthful and balanced ecology and implement whatever is necessary in order to stop the further destruction of our mountains and coastal areas,” the Coronians said.
Among others who commented on the Coronians’ letter was gubernatorial candidate Arthur Rodriguez Ventura, who wants to know whether the country’s autonomous economic development and planning agency, the Public Estate Authority (PEA), has been given the notice to approve the reclamation projects.
“We also would like to inform PEA if their office was given the notice to approve the reclamation project. PEA being one of the agencies created to approve any reclamation project in the PH,” Ventura said.