By Connie Calipay

GUARDIANS. The Albay Police Provincial Office and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources hold the orientation seminar “Laws Governing Quarry and Environmental Protection” at its headquarters’ Lakan Hall in Ligao City on Dec. 14, 2023. The seminar is in support of the Philippine National Police’s program to safeguard the environment. (Photo courtesy of Albay Police Provincial Office)

LEGAZPI CITY – The provincial government of Albay has ordered to expedite the investigation and subsequent prosecution of the perpetrators of reported illicit quarrying and dredging operations.

Governor Edcel Greco Lagman issued a memorandum on Monday emphasizing the urgency to probe the illegal activities that not only violate environmental laws but also pose a significant threat to the ecological balance and sustainable development of the province.

The memorandum directs the Provincial Administrator, Provincial Environment and Natural Resources officers, legal officer, engineering, and provincial treasurer to conduct a prompt and comprehensive investigation.

“The investigation should include but not be limited to the validation of permits, scrutinizing the authenticity of ENRO (Environment and Natural Resources Office) delivery receipts and transport permits, also assessing the environmental and social impacts of the alleged illegal activities,” Lagman said.

The governor said a detailed report that includes findings, insights, and recommended course of action must be submitted to his office on or before Jan. 20.

Lagman added that upon confirmation of illegal activities, legal action must be taken against all involved parties.

“The Provincial Legal Officer is tasked with spearheading the prosecution process to ensure that justice is served and environmental laws are upheld,” the memorandum read.

In July 2022, former governor Noel Rosal issued an order for the temporary suspension of quarry operations, citing Section 138, Paragraph 2 of the Local Government Code of 1991 that states “the permit to extract sand, gravel, other resources shall be issued exclusively by the provincial governor under the Ordinance of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.

“I will not tolerate operating the quarry operators without a permit, expired permit, and over the volume of quarry materials,” Rosal said then.

Meanwhile, two mining companies in Masbate province have operated for five years without a lost-time injury (LTI) while complying with the government’s policies that ensure safe working conditions for workers.

In an interview on Monday, Marionne Ruiz, spokesperson of Filminera Resources Corp., said safety policies have benefited at least 2,089 employees and contractors of Filminera Resources Corporation (Filminera) and Phil. Gold Processing and Refining Corp. (Phil. Gold) at the Masbate Gold Project site in Aroroy town.

“The companies have collectively reached a remarkable five-year period without LTI spanning 1,826 days and involving 32.3 million hours of work. These accomplishments were realized despite facing numerous challenges, including the pandemic, and significant typhoons while maintaining record production levels,” Ruiz said.

She said companies’ commitment to a zero-harm policy, underpinned by a culture of injury prevention, and care by employees and contractors for self and others, in addition to robust and fit-for-purpose occupational health, safety, social and environmental management systems, have been keys to the firms’ success.

“Both companies have implemented quality procedures, ensuring the safety and well-being of every employee after each shift and work rotation,” she added.

In a statement, Filminera president Cris Acosta, emphasized the importance of continued vigilance in safety practices.

“While we celebrate this milestone, our efforts towards maintaining safety performance must not wane. It is a fragile achievement that requires constant commitment,” he said.

Echoing this sentiment, Phil. Gold president Ryan Rusk highlighted the collaborative approach towards safety, with leadership, employees, and contractors working together to identify and mitigate hazards.  (PNA)