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City Council junks sand and gravel quarry applications

The city council on Tuesday, May 22, quashed the motion for application for allowable use of five sand and gravel quarry and earthfill quarries through nominal voting, a move that could lead to an amendment of the local zoning ordinance.

In the nominal voting, the city council was sharply divided with half voting in the affirmative while the rest abstained or voted no due to insufficient legal requirements presented on the floor. Nominal voting allows each councilor to explain the vote on the plenary.

However, the five applications were denied because each request needs 21 affirmative votes, or three-fourths of all 26 councilors, in accordance with the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance.

Proponent Councilor Elias Lopez, chair of the Housing, Rural and Urban Development Board, presented for approval five applications for quarry permits that have passed the City Development Council Executive Committee and the Local Zoning Board of Adjustment and Appeals.

Councilor Danilo Dayanghirang, who called for a vote during the presentation of the first quarry permit application, said during the zoning board’s deliberations, there were already issues raised regarding the problem of bad roads to the quarry site and the collection of taxes to those who continue to transport sand and gravel at night when there is no one to monitor the transactions.

Dayanghirang, chair of Finance, Ways and Means and Appropriations, sits as the representative of the city council to the local zoning board.

Dayanghirang said he does not want to take any part in what could only be disadvantageous to the government, saying that the Treasurer’s Office should settle the matter first. He also proposed to add an insertion on the application for tax collection at night time.

This motion was tabled for another deliberation as Vice Mayor Bernard Al-ag wanted to finish the applications that all passed first reading by the council.

Dayanghirang, who initially wanted to abstain due to the reasons he cited, later voted for the approval of all five applications.

Councilor Maria Belen Sunga-Acosta, chair of Peace and Public Safety, questioned the insufficient requirements of the application for additional allowable use as provided for in the Zoning Ordinance. She said that there are 13 requirements plus the addendum from the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (Cenro) which she concedes might not be applicable to quarry permits.

“If it is not applicable, then let us amend the Zoning Ordinance. If our legal basis is an ordinance, then we should follow the law. There is a need to be clear first on what guidelines to follow under the zoning law. If the zoning board gives the certification, they should also specifically say which of the requirements are complied or not complied,” she said in an interview during the session’s recess.

Among those considered not applicable for quarry permits are the Davao City Water District (DCWD) for certification of water supply availability and the Davao Light and Power Company (DLPC) for certification of power supply availability.

Acosta, however, said that the five quarry operators can still apply but it would be in their interest that both executive and legislative departments first talk about the guidelines to make the transaction efficient and fast.

This sentiment is shared by lawyer-councilors Bonifacio Militar, J. Melchor B. Quitain Jr. and Jesus Joseph Zozobrado III who either abstained or objected the motion to approve the application due to questions on its legal basis.

Acosta stressed her support to the overall campaign of the government to fast track infrastructure development but the need to be prudent and cautious in following legal procedures have to be considered.

Councilor Jimmy Dureza, after the failure of the five applications to move forward, inquired whether the city council does not want to take part in the build, build, build campaign of the government.

Presiding officer Vice Mayor Bernard Al-ag said that it was not about stopping quarry operations but on ensuring that the legal requirements are met and promised to sit down with the executive department to thresh this snag the soonest time possible.

In an interview during the short recess, Dureza said that there has to be a little sacrifice.

“Where are we going to get aggregates if there are no quarry operations?” Dureza said underlining the need to regulate quarry operations because of what’s happening for instance in Barangay Callawa where the quarry operations and transportation of sand and gravel are observed at night which has also destroyed the roads.

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