ILOILO provincial board member Lorenz Defensor proposed an ordinance regulating the use of backhoes in river mining operations in the province.
Backhoe is a type of heavy equipment used in the mechanical extraction and excavation of aggregates from the river bed.
Defensor said that during his consultation with the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, he was told that the unsupervised use of backhoes resulted in uneven extraction and elevation, creating deep holes and pools which endanger the lives of people and animals living or passing in the quarried area.
“Humans and animal deaths have been reported due to accidental drowning in pools and holes excavated by backhoes that were left unattended and unsecured,” he said.
Defensor said he already requested PENRO to provide him with exact data of incidents and deaths arising from the unregulated use of backhoes.
He added that the indiscriminate use of backhoe led to the degradation of rivers and accelerated bank erosion resulting in loss of streamside land and real estate.
Under the proposed ordinance, any person is strictly prohibited to use backhoes in quarrying operations without proper clearance and authority from the PENRO.
Its load capacity shall be submitted to the Environmental Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for consideration and inclusion as condition in the issuance of the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC).
“Once they are given the authority and clearance from PENRO, it will be included in the Work Plan and Program of quarry permittees and will be incorporated in the ECC to be given by the DENR,” he said.
Only qualified, competent and trained drivers shall be allowed to operate a backhoe.
PENRO shall also conduct regularly training for backhoe drivers and operators, reminding them of the mining laws and regulations on safety standards and hazard prevention.
Drivers and operators shall put up a warning sign in quarried areas.
Violation of the ordinance will result in the imposition of an administrative fine of P1,000 for the first offense; P3,000 for the second offense; and P5,000 and revocation of quarry permit for the third offense and subsequent violations.
Failure to pay the fine within seven days from receipt of the Notice of Violation or Notice of Adverse Findings is a ground for the filing of a criminal complaint.
Defensor said the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan also scheduled a public hearing to gather the support of the stakeholders, particularly the local officials, in monitoring quarry operations in the province.
“Our primary consideration in the drafting of the ordinance is on how to monitor the quarry operations. PENRO informed me if their personnel could be increased and if they could tap the barangay and municipal officials in the enforcement,” he said.