The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has partnered with the provincial government of Compostela Valley (ComVal) for the intensified rehabilitation of the mine-waste contaminated Naboc River in Bgy. Mt Diwata, Compostela Valley.

The Memorandum of Agreement was signed Wednesday, July 17, 2019 by DENR OIC Assistant Secretary for Field Operations-Eastern Mindanao and concurrent Region 11 Executive Director Ruth Tawantawan and Compostela Valley Governor Jayvee Tyron Uy at the regional office of the DENR.

Following the MOA signing, Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said the river will be dredged and desilted after it has been heavily silted and poisoned due to irresponsible and abusive mining operations in the area. This will address pollution in the river and improve the flow of water on its channels.

“We will not allow this river to die and we will relentlessly exhaust all means to bring it back to life, just as what we have successfully done in Boracay,” said Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu.

“At the same time, never again shall we allow irresponsible mining operations to thrive in the area,” he said, adding that the rehabilitation of Naboc River is among his priority programs as DENR secretary.

According to Cimatu, for the past 25 years, the river has been the catchment basin of all toxic wastes coming from gold mining and human activities in Mt. Diwalwal. Years of abuse and misuse have resulted to the deterioration of the river’s water quality. It is now heavily poisoned by mercury and tainted by fecal coliform.

Naboc River originates from the uppermost slope of Mt. Diwata and traverses through the six barangays in the municipalities of Monkayo and Compostela – Babag, Mt. Diwata, Naboc, Tubo-Tubo, Upper Ulip and Mangyan.

Cimatu further said Mt. Diwalwal “has been the pet prey of man’s insatiable greed – the wanton and irresponsible mining activities in the area” for over two decades.

With the signing of the MOA, “the system goes green and in full swing,” said Cimatu. “I have no doubt we will succeed in the same way we succeeded in rehabilitating Boracay.”

In his 2017 State of the Nation Address, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte called upon lawmakers to visit the river in Diwalwal, in reference to Naboc River, whose waters he described as turning from pristine to black.

In response to this, Cimatu said, the DENR has crafted a plan of action to “once and for all address the problem.”

On orders of Cimatu, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) has conducted a 500-meter sampling interval from Bgy. Diwata down to Bgy. Babag in Monkayo to assess and evaluate the condition of the river. Results confirmed that the whole stretch of the river has exceeded the standard level of mercury and fecal coliform.

The environment chief also issued Special Order No. 2018-593 on July last year which created the Provincial Task Force Naboc River (PTFNR) in Region 11. The task force was pursuant to the Executive Order No. 217 of President Duterte which created the National Task Force Diwalwal.

The PTFNR has served 1,797 cease and desist orders (CDOs) to ball mills and carbon-in-pulp plant owners on March this year. It also undertook the “Lihok Alang sa Naboc” operation which aimed the immediate transfer of informal settlers and all processing plants from Mt. Diwata to Sitio Mabatas in Bgy. Upper Ulip in Monkayo to address Diwalwal’s environmental concerns.

Clean up, information, education and communication activities were also conducted in the area.

Cimatu thanked barangay officials in the area who have campaigned to clean Naboc River through solid waste management.

Under the MOA, DENR and the Compostela LGU commit to promote sustainable community development through the rational exploration, development, utilization and conservation of mineral resources in the river.

For its part, the DENR shall have supervisory authority in all activities over the course of the rehabilitation of the river and ensure strict adherence to all relevant environmental laws, rules and regulations and the rehabilitation Master Plan in collaboration with Department of Public Works and Highways.

It shall also conduct periodic monitoring of the river as Water Quality Management Area under Republic Act (RA) 9275 or the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004 to evaluate the effects of the clean up on the river.

The MGB and the provincial local government shall also ensure that all sand and gravel materials, as well as metallic materials extracted from the river, pursuant to mining permits are disposed of in accordance with RA 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, Department Administrative Order 2010-21 or the Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 7942, and relevant laws, rules and regulations. ###