‘Well funded’ suspects nabbed in Tubao River illegal quarrying


AUTHORITIES believe that the suspects in the illegal quarry operations in Tubao River in La Union are well-funded and are being backed by an influential individual in Tubao town.

The suspects were operating heavy equipment such as a LiuGong payLoader, Hyundai excavator backhoe, Sinotruck dump truck and Isuzu mini-dump truck along the Tubao-Aringay River in the municipality of Tubao, in violation of national laws and provincial ordinances.

Documents provided by the Philippine National Police (PNP) named one of the suspects as Lito O. Panelo, 40, resident of Barangay Francia West, Tubao. The PNP said Panelo was the operator of the payloader.

The other suspects the PNP named included the following: Sammy L. Fernandez, 50, resident of Barangay Magsaysay, Tubao and operator of the excavator backhoe; Irzo M. Asuncion, 50, resident of Barangay Kagawad of Halog West, Tubao and driver of the dump truck; Rolly S. Laron, 37, resident of Barangay Francia West, Tubao and driver of the mini-dump truck; and, Michael O. de Guzman, 39, resident of Barangay Francia West, Tubao and helper assigned to the mini-dump truck.

The suspects, the police reported, failed to show corresponding permits for their operation in the area.

“They failed to show any pertinent documents with their quarrying activity,” the police stated in the initial investigation report.

The suspects were detained at the Tubao Police Station but they posted bail on the same day, the police reports said.

The arrest of the suspects came after the provincial government of La Union asked a certain Edelberto Garcia “to cease and desist your extraction activities outside the applied area.”

Police records showed that at 10:30 p.m. last October 19, joint personnel from the 2nd La Union Provincial Mobile Force Company and Tubao Police Station, in coordination with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (Penro) of La Union and the Mines and GeoSciences Bureau (MGB), responded to a reported illegal quarrying at Tubao-Aringay River in Barangay Halog West, Tubao, La Union.

The alleged illegal quarrying in Tubao was discovered after the provincial government received a report from a reliable source who said that the operation was allegedly led by Garcia in Barangay Leones East, the police reported.

The provincial government, together with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-MGB (DENR-MGB) Region 1, conducted a joint investigation in the area last September 14.

Personnel from the DENR-MGB Region 1 gathered global positioning system readings on the location of the extraction activities and based on the plotting, the extraction site was found to be outside the applied permit area of Garcia.

The environment officials recommended that Garcia stop his operation, rehabilitate the area where he extracted the sand outside his area and pay the penalty for violating Article 9, Section 2A of Provincial Ordinance 274-2021.

They also asked the local government unit of Tubao to monitor extraction along Aringay River to avoid illegal operation and extraction activities.

The shutting down of Garcia’s illegal quarry operations is in line with La Union’s Anti-Illegal Quarrying Task Force.

The task force was formed to inspect quarry operations, validate information, conduct investigation, monitor all reported illegal mining and quarrying operations, and set up necessary checkpoints and monitoring stations in the province.

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