THE suspension of quarrying operations in eight regions may worsen inflation, Senator Francis G. Escudero warned on Wednesday.
In a statement, Mr. Escudero said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) policy may increase the prices of construction materials, such as cement and aggregates, which could hinder the government’s Build, Build, Build infrastructure program.
He warned of possible shortages in construction materials as well.
“Amid the government’s efforts to control inflation, here is a policy decision from one agency that will erase whatever few gains they have made at reining it in,” he said.
“The basic problem is this will have inflationary tendencies on cement and aggregates, and will impinge upon the administration’s ‘Build, Build, Build’ project, not to mention that [the ban is] sweeping and clearly arbitrary,” he added.
He said the DENR should have conducted instead the safety and geohazard evaluation first given that the mining and quarrying firms hold operating permits issued by the department.
The DENR on Sept. 21 released a memorandum suspending quarrying operations in the Ilocos region, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Bicol region, Central Visayas, Northern Mindanao, Davao region, and Caraga.
Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has said the suspension will be enforced until the review and assessment of quarry operations are completed.
Mr. Escudero also called on the DENR to address the problem soon by adding more teams that will inspect hundreds of quarries all over the country.
He also said that while he fully understood Mr. Cimatu’s decision to prioritize the safety of communities near quarries, a balance must be struck to mitigate the economic implications of the policy as well.
“They should form 50, 80, 100, 200 inspection teams. They should inspect within one week. If someone has violations, close them down. But don’t close [everything] immediately while inspections have not yet started. That seems to be a wrong policy,” Mr. Escudero said.
“Everyone knows that when prices increase in this country, it is difficult to bring back the previous level of prices even if you [increase] supply,” he added. — Camille A. Aguinaldo