Quarry operations destroying Mt. Tagbay in Samal

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 31 Aug) – “It’s a lonely battle by the vice mayor,” said Island Garden City of Samal (IGACOS) Vice Mayor Orly A. Amit, expressing his frustration against other city officials’ inaction on the quarry operations of four firms at the protected Mt. Tagbay on the island.

Amit said in an interview the island’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) legislated in 2008 prohibits the cutting of trees and other destructive activities at any sites on their mountains at least 300 meters above seal level (masl) but quarry operations continue for several years now at the peak of Mt. Tagbay.

The vice mayor questioned the operations of the quarries, citing the provision of the existing CLUP that guarantees protection of IGACOS’s mountain range, which replenishes the streams and the groundwater.

“When I went back to public service in 2016, I saw that they did not only cut the mountain but they also brought the bulldozers,” he said.

Amit said he was told the quarry stones were needed for the concreting of Samal roads but lamented why the operators have to get the materials there, causing an irreversible damage to Mt. Tagbay.

“I want them to see how important mountains are as the source of water of the world. The rivers do not flow up to the mountains. All rivers come from the mountains,” he said.

Amit questioned how the quarry operators obtained business permits from the city government and environmental compliance certificates from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) even as the CLUP identified portions of the mountain 300 masl as protected and production forest areas.

He pointed out that all quarry operations in Samal are above 300 masl. “There is no problem in quarry if you get it from the rivers because the river would replenish by itself, But if you get quarry materials from the mountain, who will fix it?” the vice mayor pointed out.

He added that the environmental law has been put in place to protect Samal but lamented it will be of no use if it city officials will not dare to fully implement it.

Amit said they are almost complete with the updating of the CLUP and other significant proposed measures such as revenue code and septage and sewerage ordinance.

He said these laws must be passed within the last quarter of the year and before the construction of the proposed Davao-Samal bridge to prevent more environmental problems in the future.

The construction of the proposed bridge, which is already recommended for full feasibility study with funding from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), will hasten the development of IGACOS as the prime tourist destination in the Davao Region.

A “Study on the Project for Construction of Davao-Samal Bridge” conducted by Katahira & Engineers International in 2016 said that “Samal and Davao City, between which there is Pakiputan Strait, are located close to each other.”

“Ferries and boats are the transportation means between Davao City and Samal Island and availability of which are restricted by the operation schedule as well as the weather thus, giving inconvenience to the lives of the people, especially those on the island,” it added.

It said that the “waiting time for the ferry is too long at peak times because travelers to Samal Island have been rapidly increasing due to the upsurge development of the island because of the numerous beach resorts and high class residential areas.”

Citing a study by the Japan International Cooperating Agency on the Davao Integrated Development Program in 1999, the 2016 study said a bridge connecting the city and the island was recommended because IGACOS has a high potential for high-grade residential development, environmental friendly industrial estate, and cultural and financial centers under the BIMP-EAGA scheme as well as resort development due to its proximity to the city.

It added that realization of the project is urgently needed for the access between Samal and Davao by land transportation because of high development potential of Samal Island, expectation of the rapid progress in development and securing safety for about 100,000 residents in the island and for about 700,000 tourists.

“Considering the state that the number of tourists and travelers who use the ferries are remarkably increasing, economic loss generated by the waiting time for ferry is increasing year by year,” it added. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)