ANGONO, Rizal – The local government hinted on staging protest rallies for the next 254 days in an apparent effort to compel the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) to shun the idea of extending the operation of a town-based mining company when its permit to operate expires in October this year.
In a joint statement, Mayor Jerimae Calderon and members of the Sangguniang Bayan urged the DENR not to extend the permit to operate of LaFarge – Holcim Aggregates Inc., citing the need to save what is left from the company’s 50 years of mineral extraction in a town aptly referred to as the “Art Capital of the Philippines.”
“Wala na kaming gagawin kung ’di araw-araw mag-rally na lang kami sa harap ng munisipyo. Punta po kami sa DENR kung ‘di po kami marinig,” said Vice Mayor Gerardo Calderon who underscored the need for the national government to heed their call amid what he claimed as an imminent threat posed by the continuous operation of LaFarge Holcim Holdings and its associates Delta Earthmoving Inc., Batong Angono Aggregates Corp. (BAAC), and the Concrete Aggregates Corporation (CAC) of the Ortigas Group.
Claiming to be fully-backed by Angono residents, the local chief executive said that they would move “heaven and earth” to prevent the extension of mining operations in their area, adding that the 50-year mining operation in their town has done so much damage to their environment.
A local environment group which calls itself Ugnayan ng Mamamayang Ayaw na at Laban sa Minahan sa Angono (Umalma), issued a statement confirming support to the local government’s call for a halt to mining operation in their town.
As early as January last year, the LGU has launched a petition dubbed as “Yes to Rehabilitation. No to Quarry Extension.”
The members of the local council said: “Enough is enough,” apparently referring to mining operations in their locality.
The mining companies behind blasting, quarrying and extraction of basalt from a 212-hectare portion of Barangay San Isidro, has been paying the LGU a meager annual fee of P33 million, an amount which the local council said is just a tip of the iceberg compared to what they stand to lose in the event that a strong earthquake hits the lakeshore municipality.
Citing geological studies conducted by noted experts, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) warned regions encompassing the Marikina Valley Fault Line System to be cautious over an imminent strong earthquake waiting to happen.
Referred to as “The Big One,” the earthquake is expected to have a magnitude of 7.6, or strong enough to inflict death and destruction to Metro Manila and adjoining regions, including Calabarzon.
The lakeshore town of Angono is only 15 kilometers away from the fault line.
Famous for its annual Higantes Parade Festival featuring colorful paper mache giants, Angono is also considered as the country’s foremost artists’ hub having produced at least two national and other well-known artists.
In January last year, groups gathered in front of the town’s municipal hall to hold a candle-lighting event and sign a manifesto against the continuation of mining operations in their locality.
Gravel mining in Angono started in 1969 covering 212 hectares of the hills overlooking the scenic Laguna de Bai lakeside town, Umalma said in its statement.
The two current Mineral Production and Sharing Agreements (MPSA), extended by the DENR in 1995 and 1996 are due to expire in October this year.
Umalma also expressed fears over what they claimed could be another sinister move perpetrated by the mining companies and MGB, which they accused of deliberately keeping an application for extension by LaFarge-Holcim, a secret.
LaFarge-Holcim, according to them, applied for a seven-year quarry extension in 2017 that only became public knowledge when they asked company lawyers in a public hearing sometime in January 2018. An extension of mining permit to operate would mean quarries shall have until 2029 to operate – which may be extended further until 2046.
MGB has the discretion to approve extensions of up to 25 years in accordance with the Mining Act of 1995.
“If the extension petition is approved, the companies, which have so far extracted 58 million metric tons of basalt in our town, would be able to get the remaining 57,940,264 million metric tons of gravel from an area that is deemed extremely close to the Angono Petroglyphs, a protected geological sanctuary.”