Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Japanese firm told to rehabilitate quarry sites

By Tonette Orejas -- Inquirer

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—The Environmental Management Bureau has ordered a Japanese contractor of the P21-billion Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx) to rehabilitate its quarry sites at the Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac.

The EMB, an agency under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, also stopped an SCTEx sub-contractor from operating a stone crushing plant and issued notices of violations to several sand suppliers in Pampanga.

Hazama-Taisei-Nippon Steel Joint Venture, the contractor of the 40-kilometer Clark-Tarlac segment of the SCTEx, has proposed two rehabilitation options for some 40 hectares of quarry sites in Barangays Asturias and Bantug in Tarlac City and Mabilog in Concepcion town.

Although issued quarry permits by the provincial government, Hazama’s sub-contractors did not obtain environmental clearance certificates (ECCs).

Anselmo Abungan, director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau in Central Luzon, told EMB Regional Director Lormelyn Claudio that Hacienda Luisita farmers “should also be consulted to determine which option they are agreeable [with].”

The United Luisita Workers’ Union (Ulwu) had cultivated some 1,000 hectares to cash crops after its year-old strike was settled in December 2005.

Claudio said Hazama and its sub-contractors had properly abandoned the sites and that consultations were ongoing with farmers on how to revive the land.

On Nov. 6, the EMB stopped R.D. Policarpio & Co. Inc. from operating a stone crushing plant in Barangay Sapang Uwak in Porac, Pampanga, due to lack of an ECC. It was fined P50,000.

The firm on Monday submitted its ECC application and was ordered to attend technical conferences with the complainants who had raised concerns about flash floods and landslides occurring in the uplands of Porac due to extraction of stones and mountain soil.

Another sub-contractor, Greens Mix Asia Inc., was issued a notice of violation for operating a sand and gravel screening and crushing plant in Floridablanca, Pampanga, without an ECC.

Four firms—Tokwing-Floridablanca Sand Classifier, Jagal Aggregates Corp., Rhoi Realty and Development Corp. and TaiPhil Sand and Quarry Inc.—were also issued notices of violation on Oct. 30. The firms had obtained ECCs but either lacked permits from other agencies or failed to install air pollution and wastewater facilities.

Claudio said that while the state-owned Bases Conversion Development Authority had obtained an ECC for the 94-km highway, its sub-contractors and suppliers would have to secure separate permits so the EMB and other DENR agencies could properly regulate them.

These problems, however, have not delayed the project since filling works have almost been completed. EMB records show that 117 sand and gravel quarry firms are operating in Pampanga.

Claudio said regulatory work in Pampanga had been hampered by the absence of Regina Vitug, environment officer of the Pampanga provincial government, in several meetings.

Vitug could not be reached through her mobile phone for comment.

The SCTEx, funded through a loan from Japan, links the Clark Special Economic Zone in Pampanga, Subic Freeport Zone in Zambales and Bataan, and Luisita Industrial Park in Tarlac. The four-lane highway is halfway complete and is due for opening in November 2007.

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