DENR ordered to probe illegal mining, logging in Cagayan Valley

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 16) — President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to investigate illegal mining and logging activities in Cagayan Valley after the catastrophic flooding in the region due to Typhoon Ulysses.

The President held a meeting in Cagayan's provincial capital Tuguegarao City on Sunday to assess the impact of the typhoon.

He said the government is working to prevent another disaster by intensifying forest protection efforts against illegal logging and mining. He said holes caused by mining loosen the soil, posing a threat to residents in the area.

"Let us see, as I have said, it props up every now and then, I will direct here General Cimatu to look into the illegal mining, especially where the people are building their shelters downwards," Duterte said during the briefing.

He told Cimatu that if it's not possible to completely stop mining activities in the area, then he should find a way to place homes in a safer area.

On Monday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque admitted in a press conference that there may have been lapses on the side of enforcement in preventing illegal mining activities in Cagayan.

“They have limited enforcement so I would accept that we need to better enforce and implement the laws banning illegal mining even in...remote and secluded areas such as the Sierra Madre range,” he said.

The environment chief said they have issued cease-and-desist orders against small-scale mining operations, adding 10 people who died in landslides were working in illegal mining sites.

"There's no mining area given permit, sir. Illegal mining po itong mga lugar 'yung namatay. So we have filed cases already and cease and desist order for these crooked people," Cimatu said.

Residents in Cagayan were surprised when massive floods hit their province during the onslaught of Typhoon Ulysses. Floodwater reached over 13 meters high in some areas, leaving thousands of residents stranded and desperate for rescue.

Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba surmised that the massive floods in the province was not due to the spilling from the Magat Dam alone, but was also caused by the "denudation of forests" and "siltation of rivers" which need long-term solutions. 

He said the restoration of the river channel, dredging of the Cagayan River and re-greening of the region’s forests will help address the flooding problems, but it will require the consolidated effort of the entire region.

Cimatu said the local government has been given the go-signal to dredge portions of the Cagayan River to prevent overflow.

"I approved the request of the Governor of a 30 kilometers dredging from the mouth of the river, upstream and that will really help a lot, Mr. President," he said.

Typhoon Ulyses killed at least 67 people nationwide after it hit Luzon last week, leaving in its wake towns submerged in flood and billions of pesos worth of damage to agriculture and infrastructure.