Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte officials clash over quarry operations

DAPITAN CITY, Philippines – Dapitan City officials are mulling a complaint against Zamboanga del Norte Governor Roberto Uy and two other provincial officials over the alleged illegal extraction of sand and gravel in the city.

"The provincial government has no permit when they extracted sand and gravel from our stream. It is now destroyed. We will file charges against them," Dapitan City Mayor Rosalina Jalosjos said.

The issue stemmed from the extraction that the Provincial Engineering Office has been conducting at a stream in Dapitan’s remote Barangay Aseniero since July 2014.

The extraction of sand and gravel was intended for the concreting of the 5-kilometer road that connects the barangay to the neighboring municipality of Piñan.

Dapitan city officials believe a permit should have been obtained before the quarry operations were conducted.

But Praxides Rubia, executive assistant to the governor and officer-in-charge of the Provincial Information Center, believes no permit is needed.

Rubia cited a provision in the Local Government Code that gives the governor exclusive power to issue permits on sand and gravel quarry.

City and provincial officials are now clashing over whether there is a need for the provincial government to seek a permit for its own quarry operations. 

The city council of is now in the process of giving the mayor the authority to file charges against Uy, Provincial Engineer Alfonso Gorre, and Provincial Environment Management Office head Levy Lagutin Jr.

Two-year problem 

According to Barangay Aseniero chair Elma Tacbaya, the barangay had offered the extraction of sand and gravel from their stream to expedite the construction of the road project.

But Tacbaya said the Provincial Engineering Office did not respect their agreement that quarry operations should only be conducted during weekdays to allow residents to use the stream for bathing and laundry.

"For two years the residents endured walking farther upstream to wash their clothes, but lately we were pushed to complain [to Dapitan officials] when the Provincial Engineering Office continued to quarry even after the road concreting work ended last May," Tacbaya said.

Rappler learned that the extraction of sand and gravel in the barangay stopped late last week.

Residents estimated that about 30 truckloads of sand and gravel were taken from the stream daily for more than two years. According to Tacbaya, she learned that a lot of sand and gravel were used in other provincial engineering projects.

Residents also complained to Tacbaya that the quarry operations destroyed their stream.

After Tacbaya and her councilors brought their complaint to Dapitan local officials in the first week of October, the city council conducted an investigation and invited Lagutin, who did not show up on two invitations.

Councilor Alemarlou Dagpin said the provincial government has to answer for the destruction of the stream, or they might do the same and destroy other waterways in the province. – Rappler.com