Bulacan Gov. Daniel Fernando with provincial environment officials and the police during inspection of the illegal quarry site of high grade escombro in Sitio Alimasag, Barangay Camangyanan in Sta. Maria town. NEWS CORE file photo

STA. MARIA, Bulacan–Officials in this town are now under investigation over a thirty year illegal quarry operation which deprived the provincial government multi-million worth in taxes and rain-filled left open pit have reportedly drowned a number of children.

Julius Victor Degala, Bulacan provincial environment and natural resources officer (PENRO) disclosed during a waste segregation and refilling program in Guiguinto recently that environment officers in Sta. Maria including barangay officials and other personalities are now being investigated by Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG). 

Degala said a Bulacan mayor who had previously worked in the said illegal quarry of escombro (boulders) in Barangay Camangyanan divulged the series of drowning incident during Bulacan official’s two-day leadership and governance forum in Baguio last week.

“Many children have died there of drowning because of the unattended open pit as a result of the quarry operation. The drowning happen almost every year,” Degala said quoting the mayor. 

Gov. Daniel Fernando ordered stopped the quarry site in Sitio Alimasag three weeks ago after it was recently discovered following another drowning incident, Degala said.

The quarry site is a more than 5 hectares mineral-rich area filled with high grade escombro materials used as hollow blocks in building churches, buildings and landscape design. The quarry sites leave an open pit with about 30 ft. depth. 

Degala said they confiscated 29,625 cubic meter volume of escombro worth P350,000 from the quarry site during an entrapment about three weeks ago. He said the illegal quarry operation started since 1990’s. 

Degala and Maj. Jun Tabigo-on, head of  the CIDG in Bulacan had filed Mineral Theft or violation to section 163 of RA 7942 of the Philippine Mining Act, violation to 71-A of Provincial Ordinance C-005 for quarrying without permit and violation of EO 21 issued by Fernando on Aug. 16 which suspends all the mining and quarry operations in the province against a former village councilor of Camangyanan who is behind the illegal quarry including four of is four workers. 

Fernando said higher officials in the town who will be found involved in the illegal quarry will also be charged. 

Tabigo-on earlier said that they acted as buyers to arrest the suspects who they caught in the act of quarrying without permit. They seized P350,000 worth of escombro during the said operation.

According to Degala, at P20 million worth of quarried escombro in a year for the past several years, the illegal quarry operator owed the provincial government P5 million in 25% supposed collected tax. Each block of the stone is priced at P150-P600 each.

Fernando said the stones are used in churches, building and landscaping. “It is amazing to witness how our province is rich with this another type of mineral but the supposed benefit the less privileged people should have been getting were stolen by a few. We will find out who are behind this illegal operation which exists for thirty years now,” the governor said.