Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu vowed to close down and cancel the permit of the quarry operator that was reportedly encroaching into the MasungiGeopark in the town of Baras in Rizal province.

“Aside from closure, we will summon and give them notice of violation with what they did here,” said the seemingly exasperated Cimatu, who personally went to the site on Tuesday, March 3, to verify reports that a quarrying company had fenced off a quarter of the 2,000-hectare ecotourism and conservation site.

Cimatu identified the quarrying firm as Rapid City Realty and Development Corp., whose mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA) granted by the DENR in 1998 is now being looked into by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB).

Accompanied by other officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) led by Undersecretary Benny Antiporda, Cimatu removed and seized the barbed wires hammered into the Tibig trees in the area.

Cimatu said he had instructed MGB to also scrutinize the MPSAs of two other quarrying firms— Quarry Rock Group Inc., and Quimson Limestone Inc.—which along with Rapid City are operating within the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape using the MPSAs they secured in the late 1990s.

“This is a watershed, and also a protected area,” Cimatu pointed out. “We have already identified this as a protected area and these mining companies are within the protected area.”

An MPSA has a validity of 25 years from the year it was granted. Since Rapid City’s MPSA will soon expire and is subject for renewal, Cimatu assumed that the fencing off was intended for the expansion of its property.

“The company’s MPSA is due for renewal that’s why it is expanding. I’m sure it would seek for extension of the MPSA, but I will not allow anymore extension here,” Cimatu pointed out.

He added: “In fact, I’m even considering a closure of this MPSA. There is no such thing that we will allow a mining company—either metallic or non-metallic—to have mining operations in this area.”

Meanwhile, Cimatu directed Rizal Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer Isidro Mercado to expedite the establishment of a satellite office in MasungiGeopark to strengthen the protection of the nature park and surrounding protected areas. ###