The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has lifted the suspension on “90 percent” of quarrying operations in the country, but kept the quarrying ban in a city in Cebu province where dozens of residents died from a landslide at the height of supertyphoon Ompong.

DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said the suspension order on the remaining “10 percent,” which includes the operations of Apo Land Quarry Corp. in Naga City, stays.

“Ninety percent of quarry sites nationwide will resume operations, provided that these areas are one kilometer away from the communities that can potentially be affected,” Cimatu told a press conference on Thursday.

Cimatu said experts from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) were deployed to the landslide area in Naga to investigate the geohazard condition of the quarry site.

He said that quarrying activities in Naga would remain suspended until further assessment.

Citing reports, Cimatu said the Naga quarry site was already there before the community was built.

“Isolated ‘yung quarry site dati but naglipatan ‘yung community because of the workers, kaya naging vulnerable itong nasa Naga,” Cimatu explained.

Last week, Cimatu imposed a nationwide suspension on quarrying operations following the deadly Naga landslide. The latest death toll in that landslide is 65, with 21 people still missing and 18 injured.

Cimatu disclosed that he received a phone call from Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, who warned that the quarrying suspension could raise prices of construction materials.

The DENR, he said, had already anticipated this possibility that’s why the suspension was only for a maximum of 15 days.

Following a thorough review, Cimatu said the DENR decided to allow mining firms in La Union, Pangasinan, Bulacan, Pampanga, Zambales, Batangas, Rizal, Camarines Sur, Misamis Oriental, Iligan City and Davao City to resume operations.

“There are no communities around quarry sites who will be affected in case of a landslide,” Cimatu pointed out.

Some of the companies spared from the ban are Holcim Mining and Development Corp., Northern Cement Corp., Republic Cement, Eagle Cement, Lafarge Holcim Aggregates Corp. and Orophil Stonecraft Corp.

There are a total of 65 quarry operators for limestone, sand and gravel across the country.

Cimatu lamented a study showing that most typhoon casualties come from landslide despite the presence of geohazard maps distributed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to local government units (LGUs).

As for typhoon Ompong, the DENR found out that areas with landslide casualties are within “danger zones.”

Thus, Cimatu called on LGUs to review the geohazard maps and use them as guide in preparing precautionary measures during calamities.

“These maps can also serve as parameters for the declaration of no-building zones in municipalities if the proposed site is near a danger zone,” Cimatu added.

In case there are already buildings on areas declared as danger zones, Cimatu said forced evacuation is a must. ###