Leyte 2nd District Congressman Henry Ong supports the local government of Pastrana as the municipality cracks down on unabated sand and gravel extraction operations in Binahaan River. (photo and video by VBP)

Greed can kill

Pastrana, Leyte News – Congressman Henry Cañega Ong of Leyte’s 2nd District said that pure greed is endangering some communities in the municipality of Pastrana, Leyte.

Ong said that complaints reaching him about the once relentless quarrying operations by unscrupulous sand and gravel companies operating in Pastrana is ‘all about corrupt people trying to get rich quick at the expense of defenseless citizens’.

‘Ako po ay nababahala, lahat po tayo kailangan magtulungan upang masugpo ang ganitong walang kontrol na paraan ng pag gamit ng pribilehiyo sa pagkuha ng buhangin at mga bato sa Binahaan river’, Congressman Ong told the Visayan Business Post news team in an exclusive interview.

The neophyte congressman praised newly elected Pastrana Mayor Dr. Alvin Opiniano for the latter’s decisive action in immediately stopping the quarrying operations in this municipality.

Mayor Opiniano issued Executive Order No. 2016–05 temporarily suspending the quarrying operations until the municipal government is able to determine that all ‘areas of concern’, especially disaster risk reduction and climate change management, are addressed for the protection of the people.

The mayor also directed the creation of a Municipal Environmental Assessment Committee that is presently conducting a thorough municipal wide study on the matter beginning with a survey of the primary areas involved. The MEAC is expected to conduct public hearings on whether or not the said sand and gravel extraction activities should still be allowed.

‘I have directed the committee to involve all stakeholders, even including the operators whose permits and environmental clearances should be subpoenaed in order to make sure that complete transparency can be established and responsibility determined’ mayor Opiniano told the Visayan Business Post news team in Pastrana, adding that all sides will be properly heard with due process.

‘Kun an hadto nga administrasyon han municipio waray ha ira nagpupugong, iba na yana. Para ha akon, dapat unahon it katalwasan hit mga tawo nga nag-uukoy harani ha Binahaan River (If there was no one preventing them during the last municipal administration, it will be different now. For me, the safety of the people living near the Binahaan River comes first)’, the mayor said.

Congressman Ong said he will stand beside Mayor Opiniano and other local governments up to the national level if only to make sure that proper environmental guidelines are met in relation to quarrying operations in the country.

At least one death has been reported related to the quarrying operations in Pastrana with some barangays being threatened by possible flash floods due to unabated extraction of these earth materials that is used as aggregates in the profitable construction business.