THE president of the Bantayan Island Hotel Restaurant and Resort yesterday complained of the stoppage of limestone quarrying, which affected their housing projects for Yolanda survivors.
Allan Monreal said they have built 600 houses using earth blocks while 600 are scheduled to be constructed.
The project using earth blocks with limestone as raw material is financed by Caritas International of Switzerland, Monreal said.
But the quarrying of limestone was stopped by the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (Penro) last week, paralyzing their project.
“I called Penro head Baltazar Tribunalo, who only replied that magtinabangay ta (We will help one another). He knew that we are advocates in providing shelter to poor families and this will be stopped if we can’t use limestone because we use it as ingredient for earth blocks,” Monreal said.
Monreal said that had the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) allowed them to be members of the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB), the government could have understood that earth blocks using limestone are not destructive compared to using sea sand.
Monreal said that their group, Damgo sa Kauswagan (Damgo), a homegrown non-government organization (NGO), and three people’s organizations (POs) have applied for membership of PAMB chaired by DENR 7 Regional Director Isabelo Montejo, but nothing has happened until now.
He identified the three POs as Talisay Fisherfolks Association in Sta. Fe town, Bantigue Fisherfolks Association in the Municipality of Bantayan and the Talangnan Fisherfolks Association in Madridejos town.
Monreal said the main reason for stopping the limestone quarrying is that the island is a protected area.
“Well, that is true. But has it been protected at all? The DENR constituted PAMB here in Bantayan Island with only the mayors and barangays captains as members. The applications of Damgo and three POs, which is mandated by law, are pending for one year now,” Monreal said.
When sought for comment, Dr. Eddie Llamedo, DENR 7 public information officer, said quarrying is illegal under Republic Act (RA) 7586, or the National Integrated Protected Areas System (Nipas), and Batas Pambansa 165, which declared Bantayan Island as protected or wilderness area.
Llamedo said that Monreal and his groups can be PAMB members but only as environment protection advocates, not as representatives of quarry operators.
He said their appointment will be signed by the DENR secretary upon the recommendations of PAMB, mayors and barangay captains.
Llamedo said that last Jan. 16, 2016, DENR approved the General Management Plan of Bantayan Island, which is a requirement to convert the island as alienable and disposable lands so people can secure land titles as proof of ownership.
“So, quarrying is hold in abeyance in the meantime that there is a pending bill in Congress converting vast lands in Bantayan Island from wilderness area to alienable and disposable,” Llamedo said.