Escudero: Inflation may worsen amid suspension of quarry operations
The temporary suspension of quarry operations will just worsen the country’s inflation, Senator Francis Escudero warned Wednesday.
Earlier, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) released a memorandum suspending quarrying operations in Regions 1, 3, Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon), 5, 7, 10, 11, and 13 following recent landslides in Itogon, Benguet and Naga City, Cebu that left 78 and 56 people dead, respectively.
“Amidst the government’s efforts to control inflation, here is a policy decision from one agency that will erase whatever little gains they have achieved at reining it [inflation] in,” Escudero said in a statement.
The senator cautioned the government on the effects the suspension of quarrying operations will have on prices of commodities, particularly, construction materials like cement.
“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 it’s sweeping and clearly arbitrary,” Escudero said.
Escudero also noted DENR’s directive to conduct an immediate safety inspection and geohazard assessment of communities near mining and quarrying operations in their area to prevent a repeat of similar landslide incidents.
According to the DENR, the result of the safety evaluation will be the basis for the lifting of the temporary suspension.
But the senator said that instead of hastily stopping quarrying activities in all eight regions, the DENR should have conducted first the safety and geohazard evaluation since these mining and quarrying companies have already been granted operating permits by the department.
He called on the DENR to address the problem as soon as possible by adding more teams that will inspect hundreds of quarrying sites all over the country.
“Magbuo sila ng singkwenta, otsenta, isandaan, dalawandaang inspection teams. Inspeksiyonin agad lahat sa loob ng isang linggo at kung sinong may violation, iyon ang ipasara. Pero wag namang ipasara agad habang hindi pa naiinspeksiyon. Mali naman yatang polisiya iyon,” Escudero said.
“Paano kapag inabot ng isang buwan, dalawang buwan, tatlong buwan bago na-inspect ang daan-daang quarry sites sa buong bansa? ‘E di ganoon din katagal tataas ang presyo?” he pointed out.
Further, Escudero cautioned about the “domino effect” of the possible shortage in construction materials, especially cement, as a result of DENR’s suspension order on quarrying.
“Alam mo naman dito sa ating bansa, kapag tumaas na ang presyo kahit bahain mo pa ng supply eh napakabagal bago bumalik sa dating lebel ang presyo. Kapag tumaas ang presyo ng gasolina o presyo ng bilihin, ang hirap nang ibaba o bumaba iyon matapos bumaba dahil nga sa domino effect na nangyayari,” he said.
The senator moreover appealed for a unified stand from the government, lamenting how the economic managers were left on the receiving end of blame and criticisms for the actions of their counterparts in other government agencies due to lack of coordination among department heads.
“Sana nagsasalita sa iisang boses ang ating administrasyon at hindi iyong iba-iba ang sinasabi ng iba’t ibang departamento. Tuloy ang nababalingan ng galit at sisi ay ang economic team, na wala namang kinalaman dito sa binigay na kautusan ng DENR,” he said.
While fully understanding the position of DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu to prioritize the safety of the communities near the mining and quarry site, Escudero noted that Cimatu “must also strike balance to mitigate the economic implications of his policies.”
“Nauunawaan ko ang concern ni Secretary Cimatu sa kaligtasan ng ating mga kababayan, pero dapat unawain at isipin rin niya ang domino effect ng kanyang mga ipinag-uutos sa ibang aspeto ng ating lipunan at ekonomiya,” he said. /kga
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