Ecija gov hits moves to pin quarry issue on Umali clan

Nueva Ecija Gov. Czarina “Cherry” Umali on Tuesday expressed fears her political rivals are moving to fast-track a report of the House committee on good government and public accountability holding the Umali clan liable for alleged anomalous quarry operations in the province since Oct. 15 last year.

Umali said this after receiving reliable information that their family’s nemesis called for the swift issuance of the committee report to pin the blame on provincial government officials, including her husband, former governor Aurelio “Oyie” Umali.

She appealed to Speaker Gloria Arroyo to look into the intrusion of Nueva Ecija 3rd District Rep. Rosanna Vergara in the ongoing committee hearings even if she is not a committee member, in a move the governor said was just to embarrass the Umali family.

“It is crystal clear that the filing of Resolution No. 1505 by Vergara, wife of Cabanatuan City Mayor Jay Vergara, is politically motivated that is designed to oppress us,” Umali said.

This “was just a political vendetta,” she added.

In a letter sent Monday, the Nueva Ecija governor requested Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu to clarify the law on the mandate of supervision of quarry operations, saying as far as the law is concerned, the provincial government has the sole authority to issue a quarry permit.

“This supposed undertaking is a manifest disregard of the jurisdiction and authority of the Provincial Government of Nueva Ecija over its territory,” Umali wrote to Cimatu.

“This we find offending, especially in the light of the issues and accusations involving quarry operations. With the special participation of the City Government of Cabanatuan, kept totally from the provincial government, after the conclusion of the Congressional inquiry and pending release of the committee report, is therefore highly suspect,” she added in the letter.

The governor said the provincial government uncovered a memorandum of agreement entered into by the Cabanatuan mayor with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Environment Management Bureau, Mines and Geosciences Bureau and Department of Public Works and Highways in Region 3.

Under the arrangement, the city government would take control of the assessment of the water system, while the DENR and DPWH, along with the city government, shall have collective power to supervise the dredging and desilting plan in the province’s District 3.

Because of the agreement, Umali said, the city mayor has the power to control the quarry operators and choose the qualified haulers.

In a privilege speech, the District 3 lawmaker blamed the Umalis for the poor revenue collections from quarrying operations against the high tax collections of quarrying operations in Pampanga.

“We do not want to give them the time of day. The contention of Congresswoman Vergara is just a simple argument,” Umali said.

“Nueva Ecija is not competing with Pampanga since the latter is quarrying lahar with silica content much needed in different industries and washed sand. Here in Nueva Ecija, we quarry only gravel and sand,” she added.

“They never stopped in politicking. They never stopped nitpicking on me and ex-governor Oyie. I believe the truth will come out and the people will learn that we are not the ones with the dirty linens to hang,” the governor stressed.

Pampanga’s quarrying materials are also being used here and also being exported outside the Philippines, but in Nueva Ecija, “we dispose of our materials just within the province only,” she added.

According to Umali, it was wrong for Vergara to base her computation of  the collected revenues on the commercial price of gravel and sand, and not on the the fair market value “as extracted in site.”

She said the commercial price must not be the basis since other costs have been passed on, while raw materials do not entail added costings.

Topics: Nueva Ecija , Gov. Czarina “Cherry” Umali , Speaker Gloria Arroyo , Rep. Rosanna Vergara
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