Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Ragay Degamo has ordered the Environment and Natural Resources Division to form a task force to run after illegal quarryoperators, and improve sand and gravel fee collection, that he said, has plummeted compared to the past three years.

Provincial treasurer Danilo Mendez said the provincial government had collected about P1.9 million from sand and gravel extraction in 2009, then P3.1 million in 2010, and P3.5 million last year.

From January to August 2012, the collection was at P801,538.

Degamo, however, said he is not convinced that the moratorium on sand and gravel extraction, imposed by the provincial government after tropical storm “Sendong” in December 2011, caused the drop in collection.

The moratorium was only for the first two months of this year, so there must be other reasons for the decrease, Degamo said.

The governor said he has directed the ENRD to form a task force that will run after illegal quarry operators.

Degamo said he received information that there are town mayors involved in illegal extraction activities. “I want the task force to look into this and to run after these officials, if the report is true,” he added.*RA