EDITORIAL: Name Quarry Operators
The public pronouncements of Camarines Sur Governor Migz Villafuerte and Iriga City Mayor Madel Alfelor about their intention to seek judicial intervention in order to put an end to the raging controversy regarding the alleged illegal seizure of trucks owned by the city government by operatives of Task Force Sagip Kalikasan (TFSK) right inside the enclosed city-owned depot is a welcome development.
For years the legal personality of the task force has been in serious doubt. While an ordinance intended to make more effective Capitol’s tax collection drive is made as the basis, the very name, “Task Force Sagip Kalikasan,” provides the confusion in terms of function and accountability.
It is basic that taxation is one of the inherent powers of the state. It is entirely separate of the state power to regulate, otherwise known as police power (Sometimes there are misguided members of the police force who take it to mean as the power of the police.
When it comes to police power, it is a built-in power of the state, particularly in protecting the natural resources against unauthorized exploitation of natural resources for the main purpose of preserving ecological balance.
Leaving this concern endlessly hanging sends a very disturbing question. What is really the extent of the authority of the TFSK? By what authority do its operatives seize vehicles without judicial intervention and therefore absent of due process?
Seeing however an expeditious final judicial disposition of the issue is almost next to impossible. This somehow explains why some vehicles loaded with soil allegedly illegally extracted are already in advance state of dilapidation in the meantime that the incidents involving their confiscation gather dust in the courts.
Some owners have already lost interest in the case. Others, being in business, have opted to take the back door approach and are therefore back in business as usual ,with “everybody happy.”
In the meantime, it is crucial that pending the outcome of the charges and counter charges between Capitol and LGU Iriga, a more transparent approach needs be adopted in conserving the natural resources of the province. Otherwise, the senseless quarrying activities shall remain unabated, the supposed drive of the task force notwithstanding.
Along this line, Capitol should be more transparent in going after alleged illegal quarry operators and the surest way towards this end is to make public the list of duly identifiable quarry sites and operators. In the case of juridical persons, it would be most ideal to unmask those behind them.
For a starter, can they reveal the names of those involved in the never-ending quarrying in the so called Pecuaria hills, which is very noticeable along the national road within Lanipga, Bula, town?
It will also be most ideal if the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) makes known to the people what contingency measures have been prepared in the event the quarrying activities lead to severe damages to the environment.
On the part of LGU Camarines Sur, a public accounting about taxes collected from quarry operations over all those years is long overdue.