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Rough Cuts | Who’s causing river siltation?

We strongly agree with the observation of the environment protection advocate Interface Development Interventions for Sustainability (IDIS) that Davao City’s rivers and creeks are already heavily silted.

We also share with the group’s findings that the primary reason for the rapid siltation of the city’s waterways are the unabated quarrying activities along the banks. The continuing extraction of quarry items on river banks as noticed by the IDIS monitoring of quarry operations is also exacting its toll on the barangay roads leading to the quarry sites.

And why are we saying that we are in accord with the observation of IDIS on the condition of the city’s rivers and the roads leading to quarry operations? This is because we are personal witness to the non-stop extraction of not just sand and gravel but stone boulders as well in a quarry area somewhere in the banks of Davao River fronting barangay Callawa.

We can very well imagine the contribution of the quarry operation to the level of deterioration of the barangay roads where its giant China-made dump trucks pass almost 24 hours daily over the past three or four years already.

Imagine the weight of the giant trucks plus its overload of stone boulders, gravels or sand heaped on the supposedly eight-inch thick concrete pavement on the main barangay road!

We also affirm the finding of IDIS that the CENRO personnel who, without doubt, could be just the “job order” ones arrive late in their assigned posts. Certainly their primary responsibility is to monitor the number of trucks loaded with quarry materials that pass by their post so they could issue tickets to determine the appropriate collectible fees. But then again, we have noticed that by the time the CENRO personnel arrive several trucks have already gone by. Of course the giant vehicles are always fully loaded with quarry materials.

So, in such a continuing situation how much has the quarry operator cheated the city government in terms of unrecorded truckloads and uncollected fees?

Perhaps many would also ask why the barangay officials are maintaining blind eyes on the over extraction and the seemingly unregulated number of travels of overloaded trucks? Well, the quarry operators are the “go-to” guys of barangay officials for their official, and most often, personal needs for pocket money.

In fact one woman barangay functionary confided to us that she was getting some goose bumps every time she was asked by her barangay captain to go to the office of the quarry firm to get his monthly “allowance.”

With all these, how can quarry activities be regulated? How can the rivers escape siltation when there is hardly any presence of regulators in the area; when regulators or their representatives are the ones being “regulated” by the quarry gods?

Now should we be surprised if the city’s rivers overflow even faster than the rain water falls? Should we be blaming nature when the lowlands are inundated with just an hour of strong rains?

Should we not instead blame the government and its regulating agencies for being easily hoodwinked by shrewd businessmen into granting quarry permits? And if we may add one more question it should not be, “What are the reasons?” but “How much reasons?”

Meanwhile, our government officials can still have a shot for their redemption if they can pass measures that can lead to the desilting of the city’s rivers found most critical at this point in time.

If possible, the office in the local government unit that oversees quarry operations should monitor the activities of its own people with whom it has entrusted the responsibility of seeing to it that regulations on quarrying are being followed.

For all we know the guys on the swivel chairs at the CENRO or at the City Treasurer’s Office might just be “awake in the morning,” or in local dialect, “nagmata lang ug buntag” while their men are making hay on the side of their job.

But of course for all they care, if they too get the bigger share in the manna from the quarry lords; if they also join the bee line going to the offices of quarry operators every so often, that would be a different story.

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