Residents stop dredging operations in Misamis Oriental

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Residents of a barangay in Jasaan, Misamis Oriental won an initial victory when an order to temporarily halt sand mining operations was issued against a company involved in the Dolomite Beach project in Manila Bay of the previous Duterte regime. A local residents’ association in Barangay San Nicolas in the said town stopped the destructive dredging operation of the Premium Megastructure, Inc. (PMI) on September 7.

Residents of Barangay San Nicolas and its neighboring barangays are full of dread. The Mindanao Energy (Minergy) company’s hydropower plant has been operating in the upper part of the Kabulig River since 2013. Residents fear that the dam might collapse and submerge their communities. The PMI operation exacerbated this threat.

Apart from endangering the community, the company’s quarrying and dredging destroys the environment.

What is PMI?

PMI started as a construction company in Leyte in 2012. Its operations grew after being awarded a public contract to build a highway in Leyte. But the company grew fastest under the Duterte regime where it expanded to reclamation and dredging operations. It is owned by Alfredo Comendador Jr.

In Region 10, sand dredging is its main operation. In addition to causing damage to the region, the company is also embroiled in destructive infrastructure projects elsewhere in the country. Aside from Dolomite Beach, the company is a contractor for the Cebu-Cordoba Link Expressway and Bataan Transshipment Hub (BTH) projects, both among the largest state infrastructure projects. BTH is a port project that will dump 235 hectares of land into Mariveles Bay.

Destructive dredging

In 2021, PMI submitted an application for quarrying in the Kabulig River located in Barangay San Juan and its neighboring barangays San Isidro and Solana in Jasaan. PMI plans to haul excavated gravel from Barangay Los Banzon, in the same town, and bring it to Manila Bay for reclamation. The residents immediately opposed it.

Residents fear for their lives because four barangay sub-villages could be swept away by flood. Residents near the coast of Barangay Bubuntugan and Lower Jasaan will also be affected.

Members of the association gathered signatures in their respective barangays to petition PMI operations to stop. They brought it before the Jasaan municipal hall. They also swiftly submitted a petition to the municipal and provincial Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) offices.

On March 13, 2022, PMI operations resumed. San Nicolas former barangay captain, Warren Manggo, allowed the company to lease the 15-hectare land of resident Sabas Tagarda. He justified this by saying that “no resident objected to the entry of PMI.” Because of this, the residents filed a case of “falsification of public documents” before the Ombudsman against Manggo.

Worse, PMI’s permit stipulates they would be doing dredging in San Nicolas, but the company actually did black sand mining.

Because of this, the residents’ resistance grew stronger. They expanded their signature campaign to other barangays that will be affected by the project, and protested in front of the ongoing PMI operation. The residents’ demands include PMI’s violation of the prescribed amount of gravel to be taken.

The residents of San Nicolas know their fight is not over. The temporary restraining order (TRO) imposed on the company will expire this December. Also, its quarrying continues in the nearby barrios of San Isidro and Solana. They vow to continue to stand up for their land and the environment.

Residents stop dredging operations in Misamis Oriental