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Extracting natural wealth: The Taysan Quarry Story

Part 2 of 3-Part Series

[The following article is the Second Part of the Series. The series if the product of a 2-month research and study conducted under the Philippine Press Institute – Philippine-Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (PPI-Ph-EITI) Media Fellowship on Digging Stories that Matter.]

By JOENALD MEDINA RAYOS

Seemingly, a local political dynasty in Taysan

The members of the Portugal family interchangeably help the highest position in town for 21 years beginning in 1995 when Victor Sr. was first elected municipal mayor. After he completed his three-term limit, his wife Anacorita run for mayoralty in May 2004 elections while his son Victor Jr. run for the municipal council. The wife won over businessman Hernando Villena who is also into a quarrying business.

In 2007, Victor Jr. or “Dondon” run for the mayoralty and won. In 2010, he run and won again for his second term while his brother Joel also run and won a seat in the Sangguniang Bayan. It’s just the same in 2013 local elections and his three-term tenure as mayor ended in 2016.

Meanwhile, shortly before the Portugals ended its two-decades old of the top position, the Sangguniang Bayan of Taysan passed an ordinance in June 26, 2016 (Municipal Order No. 2016-001) prohibiting the operation and or management  of mining, quarrying and crusher within the territorial boundaries of Taysan, Batangas.

But it would be ironic that the ordinance was passed shortly before former mayor Dondon Portugal stepped down from power. Portugal (NPC) lost his bid for congressional post to now 4th District Representative Lianda Bolilia (Liberal Party) while his brother Joel also lost to now municipal mayor Grande Gutierrez, thus, ending the 21 years tenure of the Portugals in Taysan town.

The Bolilias of Padre Garcia town and Mayor Gutierrez are not into quarrying business.

Following the assessment of the MGB that the quarrying operation in Barangay Sto. Niño could have been in place for about 10 years prior to the raid made in November 2017, it can be noted that said period is the same years when the Portugals were at the helm of political power in Taysan town. Mamay Anastacio, however, declined to comment to the supposed involvement of the Portugals in the MGB-NBI raid.

“While it is a public knowledge here in our town that the company is owned by the Portugals, we are not privy as to the legality of their operation,” he said.

Other than Sto. Niño and San Marcelino, quarrying operations also abound in barangays, Bacao, Piña, Mapulo and Mataas na Lupa, among others. This makes 30% of the total 20 barangays of Taysan are into quarrying.

Also last year, the Lopez family was also figured out during the confirmation hearings of then Environment Secretary-designate Gina Lopez where a University of the Philippines geology professor Carlos Arcilla asserted that Lopez’ family was also into mining industry in Taysan town. It turn out however that the Lopez-owned First Balfour has applied last year for a permit from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to operate an aggregates quarry in Taysan but such permit has not been granted.

Quarry for cement industries

Taysan town is also a home to a cement factory of Republic Cement & Building Materials, Inc., a CRH-Aboitiz company. The factory sourced much of its materials from its quarry site in Brgy. Mapulo, approximately 125 kilometers south of Metro Manila and in the south- western tip of the town near Batangas City.

The company is quarrying limestone, shale and pozzolan, with estimated annual material movement of two (2) million metric tons. The current operation contracted to another party that started on January 1, 2014 will last for 10 long years, data from the company’s information system revealed.

Scope of work includes preparation of mining plans, drilling & blasting, loading and hauling of broken materials to the crusher or stockpile, loading and hauling of waste overburden to the waste dump, waste dump maintenance, access road maintenance, and maintenance and improvement of the drainage and dewatering system.

Formerly known as Fortune Cement Corporation, the company’s dual facility in Taysan has initially produced a total annual-rated capacity of approximately 1.80 million MT (on the basis of 300 working days per year). With the exception of the province of Rizal, this plant is the only cement plant within the Calabarzon area. In July 2000, Fortune temporarily shut down Line 1 due to the slump in the cement industry due to the unpromising cement demand but has resumed operations few years after until it became Republic Cement.

But for Grace Beredo De Vera of Barangay Mapulo, Republic’s presence in Taysan has brought development not only in the area but also in other parts of the town. With the regulated quarry operations, the locals are assured that correct taxes are being paid and that development spur sustainably in this second class municipality. On top of the millions of pesos it paid in terms of taxes, the RCBMI has plenty of Social Development Programs (SDP) being implemented in the community – from health programs to infrastructure projects, educational assistance and environmental projects.

Over a thousand students from four different barangays in Batangas are the chosen beneficiaries of Kusina ng Kalinga, Republic Cement’s partnership project with Gawad Kalinga, part of its campaign against hunger and malnutrition. The Kusina ng Kalinga will offer free nutritious lunches for one school year to pupils from kindergarten to grades 1-3 of Taysan Central, Mapulo, Bilogo, and Pag-asa elementary schools.

“This company provides employment to hundreds and there are lots of them from our town. The community is also benefiting from the same workers allowing housewives sell meals and snacks in their carinderias across the street,” De Vera said.

As an organization dedicated to contributing significantly to nation building, RCBM adopts an inclusive view that it is in our schools our future as a country is born. By helping students achieve their nutrition needs, RCBM in return helps in shaping their potential.

With the robust cement production of RCBMI in Taysan, another company is also applying for  another limestone quarrying in the western tip of Batangas province.

The conglomerate of food and beverage magnate Ramon Ang is keen on operating limestone quarrying in 2,336.8042 hectares in Calatagan town in the western tip of the Batangas facing the Balayan and Talin Bays. The proposed project to be undertaken by Asturias Chemical Industries, Inc. is covered by MPSA 071-97-IV and is valid until 2022.

At least hundreds of families have already been displaced from the barangays of Baha and Talibayog. The local folks living in the said barangays and were relocated in the adjacent Balayan town.

The Asturias Foundation – the socio-development arm of Asturias Chemical Industries – has already released hundreds of land Transfer Certificate of Titles (TCTs) to most of the families displaced from Baha and Talibayog, but no development yet has to commence as there are none a single permit that has been granted by the authorities.

“But it would be very hard for Ang’s group to push for such project. There are so much opposition from the affected communities,” MGB-CALABARZON regional director Samuel Paragas said. “Such kind of project must be properly endorsed by the Sangguniang Barangay and Sangguniang Bayan concerned in the affected areas; sans these basic documentary requirements, the application cannot be granted,” the official added.

Another permitee, Landtech Mining Resources, Inc. (MPSA 206-2004-IV until 2029), is also eyeing the rich Calatagan deposits of limestone, shale, tuff and aggregates.

Other than Taysan and Calatagan, quarrying operations can also be found in the towns of Mabini, Balayan, Lemery, Calaca, Agoncillo, Laurel, Talisay, Balete, Calaca, Nasugbu and Batangas City.

In Batangas City, Vulcan Materials Corp. (MPSA 091-97-IV valid until November 2022) is exploring for aggregate and andesite in 332.3980 hectares in Barangay San Miguel. – To be continued – 

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