Sablan mayor charged for dereliction of duty

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SABLAN, Benguet – Two residents of the municipality charged before the Office of the Ombudsman Mayor Manuel Munar, Jr. for dereliction of duty because of his alleged failure to implement the closure of a piggery farm due to reported violations of the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) issued for the said purpose.

In their 4-page affidavit complaint stamped received by the Ombudsman on November 5, 2020, James Agcon and Archie Camarillo stated that upon the conduct of the appropriate investigation, the Ombudsman will file the necessary criminal and administrative charges against the town’s local chief executive for his alleged inability to enforce the closure of the 5 Star Farms that had been found by the Cordillera office of the Environment Management Bureau (EMB-CAR) to have various violations of its ECC.

On March 25, 2019, an ECC was issued by the EMB-CAR in favor of 5 Star Farms Sablan Corporation that allowed the maximum stocking population of some 600 pig heads in the said farm subject to certain conditions.

However, Suyoc residents through Agcon wrote a petition dated August 21, 2019 addressed to Mayor Munar on the alleged foul smell caused by the pig waste from the 5 Star Farms.

On August 28, 2019, an investigation report was issued by the Water and Air Quality Management Section (WAQMS) of the EMB-CAR based on a complaint letter dated August 5, 2019 by Punong Barangay Marcial Flores that found the farm to allegedly violated certain conditions of the ECC.

Further, the EMB-CAR wrote a letter dated September 2, 2019 addressed to the local chief executive informing him of the notice of violation issued against the farm and enjoining him to monitor the farm compliance to local government permits and clearances.

The complainants claimed that on September 27, 2019, a joint committee report was issued by the municipal council on the petition of Agcon and recommended the creation of a task force to investigate and conduct ocular inspection and further recommended to implement the ordinance governing piggery operation on violations and report on the results of the ocular inspection be forwarded to the EMB-Car for the agency’s information and perusal.

Subsequently, the council, through Resolution No. 19-223 dated October 1, 2019, adopted the findings and recommendation of the aforesaid report.

The complainants disclosed that on October 14, 2019, because of a verbal complaint by residents regarding the alleged discharge of foul-smelling materials from the septic tank of the farm, an unannounced inspection was conducted by the personnel of the mayor’s office, municipal health office, municipal agriculture office, municipal environment and natural resources office and the municipal disaster risk reduction and management office where an onsite inspection report was issued.

Further, an investigation report dated October 17, 2019, was issued by the WAQMS based on a request and query letter from Atty. Banson for Agcon on the environmental violations committed by the farm that had generally the same content as the petition letter received by the same office on August 27, 2019.

The EMB-CAR issued a notice of violated dated October 23, 2019, against Hansel David Co as the 5 Star Farms is allegedly causing water pollution to a nearby creek which is a tributary of the Asin-Gallano River and reiterated its instruction dated October 17, 2019, to immediately stop discharging waste water directly into any body of water in the area.

Moreover, an order dated November 8, 2019, was issued by the EMB-CAR that imposed an administrative penalty of P450,000 against the farm management for violation of the ECC but on January 8, 2020, another order was issued by the EMB-CAR based on the motion for reconsideration filed by the farm management that reduced the imposed penalty to P280,000 that was later paid by the same.

On February 13, 2020, the municipal council issued a report on the farm based on a re-inspection conducted by the personnel of the mayor’s office, municipal health office, municipal agriculture office, municipal fire station, Sablan Municipal Police Station and barangay Banangan representatives and concerned citizens which was later adopted through Resolution No. 20-109 dated March 9, 2020.

Records show that as of March 9, 2020, based on a re-inspection on the farm, the 5 Star Farms was still operating without the requisite license or permit issued by the municipality and that no building permit was issued to the farm management for any construction or improvements that were introduced.

Complainants reiterated their request through a letter dated March 11, 2020, for the closure of the farm emphasizing the lack of the farm’s business permit and its continued violation of the ECC.

On May 28, 2020, a closure order was issued by the mayor’s office against the operation of the farm for violation of Presidential Decree (PD) 856, operating without the requisite business permit and non-observance of the de-population of pig heads but as of the execution of the affidavit, no actions were made by the same office to implement the said order to the prejudice of the residents of Suyoc, Banangan despite repeated demands made by them.

On June 11, 2020, the EMB-CAR issued another investigation report on the continuing violations of the piggery farm and recommended certain actions including the coordination with the municipal government for the abatement of the foul odor emanating from the farm which qualifies as a nuisance.

Moreover, the council passed Resolution No. 20-205 dated July 13, 2020, requesting the mayor to strictly implement the closure order but the latter had reneged on his duty to implement the same and that there was still no ordinance or resolution that declare the farm as nuisance in the municipality.

The complaints alleged that instead of implementing the closure order, the mayor wrote a letter to the council referring to the members to act on the submitted site updates and action plans of 5 Star Farms amidst the violations, thus, the council issued Resolution No. 20-227 dated August 3, 2020, informing the mayor that they cannot act on the same because there was still an existing closure order issued by the latter.

The EMB-CAR again issued a notice of violation against the farm on October 20, 2020, for their continuing violation of the ECC. By HENT

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