Albay board members probe quarrying corruption involving gov't officials

LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines – Government coffers were losing P56 million or so due to corruption in quarrying operations in Albay, according to statements made by Vice Governor Harold Imperial.

Implicated in the corruption issue is the environment and natural resources office (ENRO) as well as some personalities at the office of the governor. The assertions were made by witnesses who attended a meeting called on by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Albay to find out the truth regarding the irregularities. 

Board Member Pem Imperial, brother of the Vice Governor, conducted the committee meeting on Tuesday, September 19, at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan Session Hall to uncover the anomalies.

Based on the record of the provincial government, there are 141 quarry concessionaires across the province. Of the 141 quarry concessionaires, at least 3 voluntarily came out and revealed irregularities in quarry operations.    

The scheme

Quarry operator Manuel “Rolo” Orquico of Rolco Construction and Development Corporation from Daraga town revealed during the committee meeting there was undeclared income to government’s coffer wherein his liason officer was paying P7.00 for every cubic meter of aggregate transported in Albay and P25.00 per cubic meter if transported outside Albay on top of the regular payment to the provincial government.

The payment was given by his liason officer to Dave Cua, head of the provincial task force quarry, without receipt from the provincial government.

Orquico’s said this in front of ENRO chief Ma. Theresa Atos. 

Cua is next in-command to Atos at the ENRO. 

The scheme, according to Orquico, was that they were paying for 500 cubic meters original volume of aggregates but they would haul 1,600 cubic meters of aggregates. As such, quarry operators and workers were hauling more aggregates than the materials they paid for in the provincial government’s coffer.

Another witness, Lino Ferrer, a local radioman who is also involved in the quarrying business as a liason officer, affirmed the irregularities in quarrying operations involving Dave Cua and mentioned the following as part of the scheme:

Cua, Belen, and Garcia, denied Ferrer’s accusations.

Belen, a former radioman and correspondent of Philippine Daily Inquirer before joining politics, said he has been engaged in quarry business since the time Representative Joey Salceda was a governor, and he was not implicated in any alleged corruption accusations.

Albay governor Bichara told Rappler, meanwhile, that under his term, the income from quarrying operations rose from P10 million to P200 million to date.

“Under my term, we strictly enforced the provincial ordinances and permit to all concessioners so the government’s coffers will truly get the proper taxes from quarrying operation unlike before. So from P10 million income yearly in the past administration, we were able to collect P200 million. When the collection in quarrying operation improves, sadly that’s the time that some members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan are conducting such investigation,” Bichara said.

Vice Governor Harold Imperial said that the provincial government generated P187,053,179.33 taxes on aggregates for 8 months gross collections but may still be losing out due to undeclared income. – Rappler.com