Quarry, Mabalacat

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By Noel G. Tulabut

My Palm Notes

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


IT'S A billion-peso industry now, so the Capitol claims.

Quarry, to put it bluntly, has little direct returns, if there is even any at all, on roads that overloaded haulers and trucks continue to destroy.

I could only commiserate with businessmen like Rene Romero, vice chairman of Pampanga Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PamCham) in airing a very valid concern on whether quarry is indeed a boon or a bane to Pampanga.

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At the onset though, Romero has to make it clear that he has nothing against the quarry industry per se or the sizable revenues it gives to the local government units. He has no beef especially against those who run it or against those who make a living out of it.

What he and other businessmen and professionals like me cry up to heavens is how roads are destroyed and remain at sorry state due to continuous pounding by the tons and tons of payloads by sand haulers.

What compounds the woes is the fact that when these roads – national highways at that -- are to be repaired and rehabilitated by the DPWH, taxpayers money are utilized.

So what happens to the quarry fees levied on the haulers? Why can’t they be used in repairs of roads left potholed or rendered impassable by these trucks? Somebody from an LGU which hosts quarry operations answered that they cannot use the money collected by them on national highways. By some restrictions put in effect by existing laws, only the DPWH is mandated to conduct repairs on damaged roads, so that official claims.

Now, who would not be utterly incensed by such? Call it a reality. Call it limitation. Call it an excuse. Call it a reason. Call it a technicality. Call it whatever.

But people who are bothered and inconvenienced by this would call that to be insensitivity, evasion and circumvention.

Whenever DPWH has to repair roads, it means taxpayers’ money are used for such endeavor. So, to say that we -- as taxpayers, already inconvenienced (if not totally stressed out) in traffic these loaded trucks create -- are to pay over and over again for the repairs of roads badly damaged by these sand haulers who pay some fees is but unfair and detestable.

No wonder businessmen are lamenting. It is not that they do not want to pay taxes. In fact these people (myself included) faithfully do. What is loathsome is why don’t the quarry collections and proceeds be directly used to fund the repairs?

Never mind the fact that somebody must have been sleeping on their jobs instead of boosting monitoring measures on these trucks. Never mind that the mandated weigh stations are not working or simply not there. Never mind that authorities close their eyes on collection of illegal passway fees. Never mind that some haulers make use of imported surplus trucks which lengths are not designed for our roads.

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Mabalacat Mayor Marino Morales will be making his own State Of The City Address (SOCA) soon.

Already, he is happy to report of the upcoming projects to his constituency whom he has given the cityhood status two years ago. It is also a sort of report of what was accomplished since the 300-year old town has become a component city.

Under his sleeve now are preparations to convert the old town hall in Poblacion into a museum and the construction of East Perimeter Road inside Clark Freeport.

The museum is now on the drawing board as Mayor Morales tries to enlist the support of various groups and professionals, including the Sining ng Mabalacat Artist Club (SMAC) which is currently being organized under the auspices of Power Mabalacat City Center for Culture and the Arts (PMCCA).

The East Perimeter Road, on the one hand, will be of big help to ease traffic flow at Macarthur Highway. Starting at the jeepney terminal right near Mabalacat gate that is being operated by CDC, it will be built at the old perimeter road that was used by patrol vehicles traversed my air police when Clark was used by US military forces. The project is being made possible through CDC.

It will be an 8-kilomter road that will terminate at SM City Clark in its southern end. With that road, motorists could avoid the traffic jammed Macarthur Highway and the circuitous route to SM via the Air Force City area inside Clark.

For his SOCA, Mayor Morales is expected to report on various areas of concern like social services, environment, infrastructure and many more that have been accomplished for the past year.

Rightfully so, the Mayor would anchor his report on education which is the hallmark of his administration. The Mabalacat City College is producing more and better graduates since it was established few years ago. It is continually being emulated by other neighboring cities. In fact, it was Mabalacat which started the very first community college in Pampanga which trailblazing endeavors continue to serve as model for similar facilities not only in Pampanga but also in other parts of Central Luzon.

Next to education, the city’s cultural renaissance and its love for arts had given the northernmost Pampanga town prestige and pride.

For example, Mabalacat City (which represented Pampanga) emerged as the top prize winner in the Dulansangan street dance for the second consecutive year. The contest is being held in every year in Fiesta Republica which commemorates the founding of the first Philippine Republic in Malolos City.

This year also, Mabalacat City also became a top favorite in the Aliwan Fiesta where top festivals in the country compete. Although not as lucky as in the Dulansangan, the city made a dent though in elaborate choreography, costume and production design in the prestigious event.

Another cultural great is the re-staging of Caragan Festival, in honor of the city’s Aeta ancestry. Absent for two years due to preparations for cityhood, Caragan was revived this year and it even surpassed Cebu’s Sinulog Festival in terms of the number of schools, tribes and contingents that participated.

All of these arts and culture programs were made possible by the Morales Administration through the no non-sense leadership of chief of staff June Magbalot who was once described by media colleague and mentor Bong Lacson as culturati and a gemologist.

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on August 06, 2014.

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