AN ENVIRONMENTAL group said on Friday, February 24, that the Cagayan de Oro City Local Environment and Natural Resources Office (Clenro) should be held liable for allowing highly-mechanized quarry operations along the heavily-silted Iponan river.

Task Force Kinaiyahan chairman Orlando Ravanera said lawyer Maria Paz Luna, undersecretary for legal affairs of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), saw in an aerial survey for herself the dozens of backhoes along the river, implying mechanized quarrying which should only be applied for gold quarrying.

Ravanera said this is illegal and quarry operators should be arrested.

"Ingon ni Usec Luna, dili angayan i-mechanize ang quarrying dinha kay for sand and gravel raman kaha (Usec Luna said sand and gravel quarrying should not be mechanized). But why are they using backhoes? So meaning to say, they are doing gold mining, and they should be arrested," Ravanera said.

Ravanera questioned why these quarry operators were able to get permits, particularly Environmental Compliance Certificates (ECC), when the practice is illegal.

He added these operations should be stopped immediately as it causes damage to the biodiversity in the "already heavily silted river."

But Clenro chief Edwin Dael insists that using backhoes and other heavy equipment in quarrying is declared legal by the ECC.

“Perhaps Mr. Ranavera is not updated on certain provisions under the ECC. Dili naman gud madala ug pala lang ang gamiton for an urbanized city like Cagayan de Oro. So giusab na ang ECC gi-allow na ang atong operators [Using just shovels will not do for an urbanized city like Cagayan de Oro. That is why the ECCs now allow operators (the use of backhoes)]," he said.

Dael said quarry operators can use mechanized equipment as long as they dig from the riverbanks. He said quarry operators are supposed to dig out sand bars as these cause the current to destroy the riverbanks.

After the aerial survey last Thursday, Undersecretary Luna vowed to support the programs of its local office counterpart, a move which Dael welcomed.

He said his office will get a boost in logistics and surveillance equipment intended for use in the mountains to monitor illegal mining operations.

Dael said the DENR official also said funds will be allocated to the local government in its rehabilitation and protection of watersheds and forests.