By Philippine News Agency
MT DIWATA, Monkayo – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) launched its three-day “Lihok Alang sa Naboc” program to implement a closure order to the 1,797 ball mill and the batch-type Carbon-in-Pulp (CIP) tank operators in Barangay Mt. Diwata (popularly known as Diwalwal) in Monkayo, Compostela Valley starting on Saturday.
DENR-11 Regional Executive Director Ruth Tawantawan said it is high-time that gold processing plants in Diwalwal should transfer to the Mine Processing Zone in Mabatas, Monkayo.
“(That is) after 33 years of no permit and no tax. We gave them enough time,” she said in an interview on Saturday.
The operators were given until March 15 to dismantle and transfer their plants to the Mabatas zone.
Tawantawan said the government needs to rehabilitate the Naboc River from toxic contamination.
Based on studies by the DENR-Environmental Management Board (EMB), the Mines and Geoscience Bureau (MGB), the United Nations
Industrial and Development Organization (UNIDO), and other organizations, the Naboc River has a high concentration of mercury and has had incidents of soil erosion and siltation in the river.
Despite intervention by the DENR, the National Task Force Diwalwal and the local government units, the river is still grossly contaminated with mercury and cyanide from mining operations.
A DENR team, escorted by the Monkayo police, arrived in Mt. Diwata to serve closure orders to 1,797 CIP and ball mill plants in the gold rush site on Saturday.
“Our objective here is to transfer the source of the pollutants and confine it within the tailings pond area,” she said.
Tawantawan said during the first phase of the rehabilitation, the transfer of informal settlers and relocation of ball mills and other processing plants will be prioritized.
If ball mill and CIP plants continue to operate, Tawantawan said they will slap operators with PHP200,000 penalty per day of operation.
About 16 teams of 14 members each coming from 11 cities and five provincial ENR offices have been deployed to implement the closure order.
A monitoring team will also be stationed in Mt. Diwata to ensure that no operation will take place.
The transfer of over a hundred households in three puroks (villages) — 15, 16 and 17 — was prioritized because of tension cracks discovered by the MGB.
The fresh crack is about six meters which makes the residents in the three areas more vulnerable to landslide.
Monkayo Mayor Ramil Gentugaya said there is no other way but for everybody to transfer to the Mabatas.
He expressed concern that if operators will continue to defy the order, President Duterte might choose to shut down all tunnels and processing plants just like in Boracay.