Local executives from Metro Manila have joined calls for the cancellation of three large-scale quarrying agreements within Upper Marikina Watershed and the Masungi Geopark Project.
In a statement, the officials urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to cancel mineral production sharing agreements (MPSAs) covering more than 1,300 hectares of the protected landscape.
Among the signatories are Muntinlupa City Mayor Jaime Fresnedi, Marikina Mayor Marcy Teodoro, and Pasig Mayor Vico Sotto.
Their joint statement highlighted concerns on the inaction of DENR on the MPSAs. “These destructive activities are anathema to the protected area meant to be preserved from exploitation for the wellbeing of FIlipinos and future generations thereof,” the joint statement said.
The local executives said that the non-cancellation of MPSAs gives a “runway” for the quarry companies to operate later. They also added that the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) have reported that the quarrying companies concerned committed “gross violations,” breaching the Philippine Mining Act.
According to the officials, the “unlawful and misplaced quarrying, unscrupulous resort construction” accelerates floods and landslides, which are also experienced by their constituents.
In a study by the Manila Observatory, the continued deforestation of the Upper Marikina Watershed could significantly increase the extent of flooding in low-lying reaches. According to Masungi Georeserve, devastation to life and property can be worse than what was experienced during typhoon Ondoy as only 11% of forest cover is left in the watershed.
Petitions and calls to cancel the MPSAs were initiated after DENR Acting Secretary Jim Sampulna suspended the MPSAs of the quarrying firms, which were not operational for 24 years, instead of cancelling them altogether as what concerned groups demanded.
Nestled in Southern Sierra Madre, the Upper Marikina Watershed has been protected for more than a century through its designation as a reservation. In 1977, the area was declared as a part of a National Park through Presidential Proclamation 1636. Under the protected areas act (e-NIPAS) and the Philippine Mining Act, quarrying is banned in national parks and declared watershed reserves.
Among the affected areas by quarrying activities and reported construction of illegal permanent structures is the Masungi Geopark, an award-winning non-profit project which aims to restore degraded and abused watershed areas surrounding the limestone formation. According to the geopark, it has “rescued 2,000 hectares of land for restoration, established 17 km. of monitoring trails and ranger stations, and engaged 100 park rangers and 200 partners from various sectors in reforestation, despite serious risks faced by rangers and team members.”
The geopark stated that environmentalists fear that gains from the project’s efforts will be lost once again if “quarrying agreements are not decisively canceled.”
Basti Evangelista is a news and opinion writer who focuses on Philippine national politics and sectoral issues. His personal advocacy includes press freedom and social justice.
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