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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

RESIDENTS of five villages in San Remigio, Antique must be relocated least they will be buried alive in a landslide.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) issued the recommendation following the occurrences of cracks and landslides in the said area.

In a report, the DENR’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) said Brgys. Panpanan I, Panpanan II, Sumaray, Walker, and Insubuan are considered landslide prone areas.

The MGB evaluated the villages upon request of San Remigio Mayor Elizabeth C. Coloso.

Residents in the said barangays observed mass movements (cracks and landslides) and artificial damming at the headwaters of Maninila River after a landslide.

Landslides had occurred in the area in September to early October at the headwaters of Maninila River. The landslide was 70 meters long with about 7,000 cubic meters of debris deposited at the narrow river channel below, creating an artificial dam.  

“The rain water was accumulated by the artificial dam upstream and when the artificial dam broke up the accumulated debris flowed downstream and although it did not cause flooding, water had subsided within the severely weathered rocks. This action had softened the rocks and caused a mass movement,” the MGB said.

The MGB recommended that residents and structures such as elementary schools and houses at Panpanan I and Sitio Libudon in Insubuan must be relocated to areas with flat to gently slopin terrain.

Residents must also avoid relocating near creeks, rivers and mountain foot slopes.

“These residents and structures, if not relocated, are facing real danger of landslides,” the DENR-MGB report said.

MGB geologists also advised communities along Maninila, Sibalom, Tipulu-an Rivers and other large creeks to be wary of the situation and prepare for evacuation during heavy rains or storms.

“The local officials of San Remigio must conduct continuous disaster preparedness training for barangay officials and residents to avoid victims of landslides in the future,” the agency said.

Brgy. Panpanan I and surrounding villages have rugged and mountainous topography with a steep slope angle, almost vertical to the headwaters of the Maninila River. The river is also the headwaters of other rivers and large creeks with waterfalls within the barangay.

The danger zone is also located 4 kilometers away from the West Panay Fault which is a major cause of earthquakes in Panay Island. If an earthquake occurs, the villages are at risk of disastrous landslides.

“At the time of evaluation, it was observed that there are several large landslides at the headwaters of Maninila River,” the MGB said.

The MGB evaluation also showed that majority of San Remigio town lies on the Antique Ophiolite Complex and late Oligocene and early Miocene bedrock.

This bedrock is composed of basalt with intercalated sandstone, siltstone, mudstone and conglomerate and other stone formation with cracks that could be penetrated by water thereby making it soft and prone to erosion and landslides.

“At the headwaters of Maninila River, the main rock types consist of severely weathered and highly jointed basalt-sandstone, siltstone-mudstone conglomerate called Panpanan Formation that is also prone to erosion,” MGB added.

It was observed that during heavy rains, rainwater and accumulated groundwater seeped through numerous joints/cracks of the severely weathered rocks. These rocks are made up of broken fragments, cemented particles of sand, silt, mud and loose soil.

“The presence of large volume of water separates these rocks/soil into its individual particles or fragments that makes it highly susceptible to mass movement. A mass of broken rocks and soil oversaturated with water located at the steep slopes will just naturally move or flow downward causing landslides.”

MGB Regional Director Leo Van Juguan said these conditions pose danger to communities below the mountain slopes, thus the local government should act at the earliest possible time. 

Juguan said residents of the five barangays must monitor their areas and immediately report ground movements to the MGB-DENR.

DENR Regional Director Benjamin T. Tumaliuan urged provincial and municipal government officials to review the geo-hazard maps provided by the MGB-DENR for inclusion in their disaster preparedness plans.

“The experience of flooding and landslides in Quezon and Leyte were the awakeners for all of us and it would be futile to blame any agency in case of disaster because of our unconcerned attitude to the havocs of nature,” Tumaliuan said.

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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) must secure permits from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for the clearing of the Dungon Creek banks in Iloilo City, according to Mayor Jerry Treñas.

Treñas said the DPWH, which is implementing the P50-million Dungon Creek dredging, may have forgotten to secure a permit from the DENR to clear the creek of mangroves as part of the project.

Last week, residents of Sitio Sooc in Brgy. Bolilao, Mandurriao slammed International Builders Corp. (IBC), a sub-contractor of the project, for uprooting 20-30 mangroves and other trees from a portion of the creek in their village.

Members of the Bolilao Empowerment of Neighborhoods Association (BOENAS) fear that the creek banks will be eroded and endanger residents if all mangroves are uprooted.

Initial report by the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (Cenro) in Iloilo said an estimated P30,000 worth of mangroves were destroyed.

The contractor and the DENR have suspended the dredging project because of the issue. Another factor that delayed the project implementation is the relocation of squatters from the creek’s banks.

Treñas said the DPWH has sent a letter to DENR Sec. Lito Atienza to resolve problem.

The mayor said the project will resume when the snags are resolved to prevent flooding in Iloilo City.

Cenro head Bernabe Garnace said IBC should have used a barge to excavate or dredge the river bank of silt to prevent overrunning the mangroves and other endemic plants in the creek.

“The backhoe should have been placed in one barge while the other barge will haul the excavated materials. Placing a backhoe in the easement area will destroy the mangrove areas,” Garnace said.

The main contractor of the project is Cebu-based WT Construction which won the bidding conducted by the DPWH regional office.

Garnace said if proper procedures were observed, minimal destruction was done on the mangrove areas.

He added that the environmental destruction caused by the incident is bigger compared to the commercial value of the damaged mangroves.

“The environmental assessment is still ongoing in the affected mangrove site. What happened is uncalled for,” Garnace said.

Garnace said the DENR will call a technical conference to determine IBC’s liabilities on the destroyed mangroves. (With reports from PNA)

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

REFORMS are underway to further perk up the mining industry in the Philippines, according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Speaking before the 7th Mineral and Energy Visayas Summit in Iloilo City Friday, DENR Assistant Secretary Jeremias L. Dolino said there is a need to refocus on the benefits of mining and attracting more investors in the country.

The DENR Mines and Geosciences Bureau headed by Engr. Leo Van Juguan hosted the summit at Westown Hotel in Mandurriao, Iloilo City.

Juguan said the annual summit is a gathering of key players in minerals and energy that highlighted the experiences of public and private sector affiliated with the mining industry.

Dolino said the mining industry continued its growth despite the global financial crisis since last year.

Dolino said the mining sector contributed 0.95 percent in 2001 to 1.52 percent in 2008 to the country’s gross national product (GNP).

“Mining has plowed in some US$577.25 million in 2008 or a total of US$2.1billion in investments since the start of the revitalization program in 2004,” he added.

The mining sector was also one of the recipients of the US$1.5-billion net foreign direct investments in the country in 2008.

Around 68,310 jobs were generated since the start of the mining revitalization program in 2004, Dolino said.

“As for the energy sector in 2008 the country got close to its 2010 target of 60 percent self-sufficiency, with the achievement of 57.9 percent sufficiency,” he added.

Coal, which is mined in various parts of the country, is one of the largest sources of energy in the country.

According to the Department of Energy, coal-fired thermal power plants remain the number one producer of electricity and account for a total of 3,967 MW or 25% of the country’s total installed powered generating capacity.

Dolino said the DENR will further streamline the processing of mining applications, cleansing of dormant mining claims and stricter compliance and monitoring of permit holders.

“We expect that processing time for new exploration permits(EP)/mineral production sharing agreements (MPSA) will be further reduced from 1 year to 6 weeks, excluding the National Commission in Indigenous People (NCIP) certification and the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC),” Dolino said.

The NCIP certification is needed to ensure that the area to be explored or mined is not an ancestral domain of indigenous peoples.

FPIC consists of giving local people a formal role – and some form of veto power – in the consultations and ultimate decisions about local development projects, particularly mining.

The DENR will also shorten the time for EP renewal/exploration period renewal from 3 months to 1 day.

Cleansing of dormant mining claims aims of weed out speculators aside from coming up with a roster of active, serious, capable and competent mining applicants, Dolino said.

 

Soil excavated from the Iloilo Flood Control Project is allegedly sold to private individuals. (Photo by Tara Yap)

Soil excavated from the Iloilo Flood Control Project is allegedly sold to private individuals. (Photo by Tara Yap)

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

WHO is responsible for the alleged commercialization of excavated soil from the multi-billion Iloilo Food Control Project (IFCP) spanning the town of Pavia and Iloilo City?

 

This question surfaced after an unsigned letter reached the office of Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) regional executive director Raul Calderon April 20.

 

The letter, which was signed by “concerned citizens of Iloilo City”, informed Calderon about the commercialization of excavated earth from the project by selling the material to subdivision sites and other private projects in Iloilo City and Pavia.

 

The letter also claimed that some of the soil was delivered to the coal-fired power plant project of Global Business Power Corp. (GBPC).

 

“The excavated earth materials are supposed to be utilized in the site development of the resettlement site in Brgy. San Juan (Molo), embankment and backfilling of the portions of the river (left after the rechanneling) which will not anymore be part of the active drainage, as per submitted plan of the Iloilo Flood Control Project,” the letter said.

 

But the letter writer said personnel from the Department of Public Works and Highways handling the project and project contractors – Hanjin and China International Water and Electric Corp. – sell the earth materials to private persons to the disadvantage of the government.

 

It added that earth materials from the IFCP should be bidded out “so that the government can get the amount, which runs in millions at the current market price of P160 per cubic meter,” the letter said.

 

The letter said those behind the disposal of earth materials from the project compete with legitimate quarry permittees who pay taxes to the government.

 

It was learned that the excavated soil were delivered to the properties of three businessmen putting up subdivisions and commercial areas in Jaro and LaPaz districts.

 

Engr. Al Fruto of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Project Management Office, said excavated soil is disposed to the following: IFCP requirements (around 40%), relocation sites and government projects and previously identified disposal areas.

 

“Areas within the one-kilometer radius of the project can be selected as disposal areas,” Fruto added.

 

Fruto said earth material can only be disposed to private lots “provided they secure a certificate of non-coverage from the DENR.”

 

When asked about the sale of excavated soil to private individuals, Fruto said it is not allowed.

 

“On the part of the DPWH, we don’t sell the earth materials. Maybe it’s the contractors who sold the soil because disposal is directly under their jurisdiction,” Fruto said. 

 

Engr. Jerome Borjal, IFPC project manager, said over Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo that they don’t allow the sale of earth materials to private projects “because these are considered government properties.”

 

Borjal said they will investigate where the soil were sold or diverted.

 

REJECTED

 

Engr. Adrian Moncada, GBPC vice president for commercial operations, said several sub-contractors of IFCP sent samples of the excavated soil to test if these can be used in the coal plant project.

 

“We rejected the soil because it is unsuitable material. The content and composition of the soil is not suited for the project. No soil from the flood control project was delivered to our project site in Brgy. Ingore,” Moncada said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has set several conditions for the proponents of the 164-MW coal-fired power plant in Iloilo City to mitigate any adverse effects of the project on the community.

The conditions are spelled out in the environmental compliance certificate issued by DENR Secretary Jose “Lito” Atienza to Panay Power Corp. (PPC), proponent of the power plant which will be constructed on the PPC property at Brgy. Ingore, LaPaz district.

Atienza signed the ECC September 1, almost nine months after PPC, which is a subsidiary of Global Business Power Corp. (GBPC), submitted its environmental performance report and management plan (EPRMP) and environmental management plan (EMP).

The top condition set by the DENR is the continuous conduct of an “effective information, education and communication (IEC) program to educate stakeholders of the mitigating measures of the project.”

The IEC will also inform contractors, workers and local residents on the conditions set by the ECC and the environmental and human safety features of the project “for greater awareness, understanding and sustained acceptance” of the undertaking.

The IEC program will be implemented in the form of quarterly consultation with affected residents, farmers and fishpond owners.

Environmental training for the staff, contractors and workers will also be conducted to help them understand the mitigation, monitoring safety measures of the power plant.

The DENR also directed the project proponent to continuously implement the comprehensive social development program for the affected community. The program must be submitted to the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) central and regional offices 30 days after receiving the ECC.

The proponent was also required to establish and maintain a 5-meter buffer zone planted with appropriate local species along the plant’s periphery.

Another condition is the installation of additional automatic sensor for monitoring temperature and other relevant parameters prior to the discharge of cooling water from the coal-fired power plant while maintaining the existing one.

As a general condition, the proposed plant shall conform with the provisions of Republic Act 6969 (Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act of 1990), RA 8749 (Clean Air Act of 1999), RA 9003 (Ecological Solid Waste Management Act) and RA 9275 (Clean Water Act of 2004).

The existing memorandum of agreement on the environmental guarantee fund (EGF), environmental monitoring fund (EMF) and multipartite monitoring team (MMT) shall be revised to include the coal-fired power plant.

The revisions will include the increase in EGF and EMF for the cleanup and monitoring of the plant operations.

Also, the action/management program for the protection and enhancement of the Jaro River and the existing mangroves/aroma stands in the area shall be implemented continuously and regular monitoring of said river to include aquatic biota shall be continuously undertaken. The results of the monitoring shall be submitted to the EMB central and regional offices.

Engr. Adrian Moncada, PPC assistant vice president, said they will install the display of the continuous emission monitoring system (CEMS) at the DENR regional office “so that the public can see that we follow the standards set by the law.”

“The CEMS will operate 24 hours, seven days a week and it will be open to the public. We want our operations to be transparent to the community,” Moncada said.

Moncada said they will also continue to help rehabilitate the Maasin watershed area and plant a buffer zone around the plant to address concerns about greenhouse gases.

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