Tabuk City, Kalinga – Photos of trucks filled to the brim with boulders presumably hauled from the Chico River has sparked debate among netizens, local politicians, and local executive officials on social media.
The photos, which were posted by Rod Dumallig to Facebook on Tuesday, showed five different six-wheeler trucks plying the route to Tuguegarao City, Cagayan and drew the ire of netizens who quickly took to the comments section to raise their concerns and criticisms. They talked about the impact of the seemingly overloaded trucks on the province’s roads and bridges and the damage to rice fields if there are no more boulders to act as natural flood protection.
In his post, Dumallig questioned whether the province is duly compensated for these hauling activities and sought clarification from Environment and Natural Resources Officer Dominic Sugguiyao. “I thought this has been stopped as you mentioned during our talks,” he told Sugguiyao in his caption to which the latter responded with a picture of the notice of meeting of the Committee on Environmental Protection, Natural Resources and Energy. “Please come to the meeting today at the SP [SangguniangPanlalawigan] so that your concerns will be addressed.”
“Do not only make sweeping statements in social media that will just manifest ignorance on the subject,” Sugguiyao wrote in the comments the following day.
Sugguiyao clarified during Wednesday afternoon’s meeting that the boulders in Chico River cannot be depleted and will always replenish, contrary to some netizens’ claim that excessive boulder hauling will leave nothing for the future generation and destroy the beauty of the Chico River. He confirmed that there is indeed a resolution to stop the transport of boulders from Kalinga to Tuguegarao after the local government unit received reports of illegal quarrying activities. However, after a series of committee meetings, it was found out that the resolution contradicts provisions of the Philippine Mining Act and as a result, the ENRO continued to issue quarry permits to extractors under certain conditions.
Another resolution is proposed to immediately stop the hauling of boulders, sand, and gravel out of Kalinga until after the Department of Public Works and Highways finished putting physical markers on authorized quarry sites in Chico River. Board Member Emilio Kitongan objected to this, reasoning that a second resolution would only present the same problems in implementation and monitoring as in the first one. “It’s going to slow down our work,” he added. Board Member Eduardo Sarol, for his part, said that the second resolution should be passed in order to expedite the action of the DPWH. Board Member Danzel Langkit also agreed to the second resolution.
According to Richard Daliyong of the Provincial Treasury Office, they have collected P5,693,307 from January to September 2017, of which the province has a 30% share of P1,707,992. But Daliyong said this does not reflect the collection from 20 quarry companies as some of them have only paid for taxes but not for permits.
Dumallig objected to the figures, saying that it was a far cry from the number of trucks he had observed driving out of the province for the past four months. What came next is the first of many heated exchanges throughout the meeting, with the committee members and Dumallig speaking on top of each other over contentious points.
Several times during the meeting, the board members reiterated that they are not against quarrying and that the SP has done its job as a legislative body to regulate its operations but the problem always lies in implementation and monitoring at the executive level. Daliyong admitted that the treasury office does not have enough personnel to monitor all quarry sites or the capability to go after violators.
In his defense, Sugguiyao said that they have implemented the SP’s resolution and even apprehended violators but he reiterated that the resolution ran counter to national laws. He said that they are currently working on an ordinance that will regulate quarrying operations in Kalinga and asked all parties to contribute so that the problems that were brought to light in the meeting can be comprehensively addressed. Kitongan also offered the same suggestion earlier in the meeting, saying that the ordinance should be prioritized and fast-tracked. The treasury office agreed with him. Meanwhile, the resolution to stop the hauling of quarry materials outside Kalinga stands.
By Iryll Sicnao