Quarry fees unpaid? Ilocos Norte provincial probe seeks probe of P40-M river dredging project

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LAOAG CITY — The Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP or Provincial Board) is seeking help from the Provincial Legal Office to investigate a PHP40-million river dredging project in Bacarra town over alleged non-payment of quarry fees.

In a committee report, SP chairperson of the committee on laws Atty. Da Vinci Crisostomo said Thursday that project contractor Viking Construction has been extracting sand, gravel and boulders since February, but it is not paying any quarry fees to the provincial government.

Said aggregates had been used to backfill the lower portion of the river embankment.

Crisostomo insisted this entitles the Ilocos Norte government to collect fees, as dredging of rivers is also a form of quarrying based on the amended copy of the provincial quarry ordinance approved in 2017.

“Under the provincial quarry ordinance, dredging of rivers is also a form of quarrying but when we checked with the treasury, there had been no fees collected from the contractor,” he said.

Through a joint committee report of the committees on laws and good government, the SP has referred the matter to the Legal Division to further study the matter.

If warranted, Crisostomo explained the contractor will be demanded to pay quarry fees, or face charges appropriate in court.

In an earlier interview, Assistant District Engineer Richard Ragasa of the Ilocos Norte first engineering district pointed out the aggregates being dredged from the Bacarra river are not being taken out for construction, but these are put to another side of the same river bed.

But the provincial board underscored that before a river dredging activity takes place, the project implementor should first seek endorsement from the provincial board as clearly stated under the quarry ordinance.

The strict implementation of the quarry ordinance is being sought by the provincial legislators after the collection of quarry fees in the province significantly declined in the past six years. (PNA)

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