THE parish priest of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in Barangay Alangilan, Bacolod City and concerned groups held a rally Wednesday against the quarry operations in the village.

Fr. Farley Santillan, who is also the vice chairperson of the People’s Movement for the Protection of the Environment, swamped the Government Center with some village residents and members of cause-oriented organizations, to press Bacolod City Mayor Evelio R. Leonardia and members of the City Council to deny and cancel the quarry permits applied by quarry operators in Barangay Alangilan.

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The group urged city officials “to put an immediate stop, cease and cancel, the Arceo-owned 'Jokris Enterprises' quarry business permit, considering the widening opposition of our people and the devastation of the environment and natural resources it has caused us all.”

Santillan presented reasons for such a call, citing the issue of global warming and climate change and the adverse effect to the life and livelihood of the Alangilanons, especially those in the agricultural sector.

The priest also underscored the case of the 27 ejected agrarian reform beneficiaries who are entitled to the 85.26 hectares of Alberto Arceo’s hacienda.

He further stressed the massive devastation of land as a result of the quarry operations, saying that this constitutes non-compliance and violation of the rehabilitation conditions of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB).

Meanwhile, the three quarry operators – Michael Lawrence Bantug, Allan Joseph Arceo and Jojo Bonnin - appealed to those opposing their quarry operations to be fair in judging them.

They should see the real situation first before they make their judgment on them, they said.

The quarry contributes to the progress and development of Bacolod City because quarry materials like the volcanic soil are used to make roads, bridges, buildings, homes and churches, among others, the operators group explained.

The group claimed that even Santillan and Fr. Mao Buenafe of the Social Action Center of the Diocese of Bacolod recognize the need for the quarry. Santillan has personally asked for materials from them for the renovation of the parish church in Alangilan, the group added.

They were also generous to Santillan, as the Bantug family was the donor of the property where the Alangilan parish church now stands.

Bonnin said that they have made use of their barren properties for good as it will help them develop the area into eco-tourism destinations. They have been rehabilitating the quarry sites for these to be utilized in the future as resorts and other highland recreation areas.

Arceo said that even the malls where the people stay and shop have used quarry materials to build the structures. The homes, roads, bridges and other vital infrastructure all utilize quarry materials, they explained.

“People should not judge us without first taking an objective and unbiased look on the real situation,” Bonnin said.

Bonnin said after decades of quarry operation in Alangilan, there is no history of landslide, flashflood, and any man-made calamities caused by quarry operation.

Arceo stated that even Buenafe acknowledges the usefulness of the quarry because when Buenafe visited the quarry site and the area, which was already rehabilitated, he said, “God is good and great to give us this kind of soil for our roads and homes.”

Arceo added: “Everyone who went to the quarry had a positive outlook. Quarrying is actually a good thing. However, people are misled into thinking that quarrying is bad. Perhaps people will come to realize that those biases are products of an old mindset.”

The three quarry operators have donated roads and lands for post harvest facilities and schools. They are working on a mountain resort that will operate soon but the project is temporarily stalled as the quarry operators can no longer provide the filling materials for the roads leading to the proposed resort.

Bonnin said that it hurts them being tagged as destroyers of the environment.

“We are just using our own private but barren property into good use. After that, we rehabilitate them and transform them into a much better state than what they previously were,” he said. (Carla N. Cañet)