SAG extractors needs to be provided with alternative livelihood

Currently, there are nineteen (19) sand and gravel extractors in Barangay Cogon, Baybay City, Leyte.  This was revealed by the Punong Barangay of Barangay Cogon, Hon. Teresita Saguinsin Pialago, during the meeting called by Committee on Environment, Natural Resources & Conservation and the Committee on Public Works and Infrastructure of the Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) of the City of Baybay to discuss about the sand and gravel extraction at the Pagbanganan River.

She added that SAG extraction is their main source of income of the residents in Barangay Cogon and if the law against sand and gravel extraction will be strictly implemented, they need to have an alternative livelihood.

Punong Barangay Pialago revealed that way back 2016 the SAG extractors of Barangay Cogon and Zone 1 were organized by the city’s Civil Society Organization (CSO) Desk Marissa M. Cano to qualify for the Sustainable Livelihood Project (SLP) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) under the Bottom’s up Budget (BUB) Program of the national government.

The CSO Desk even met the SAG extractors in Zone 1 in the evening just to encourage them to participate but most of them decided not to join the organization. Thus, the CSO Desk opened the membership to interested residents of Barangay Cogon which is now the Association of the Women and Men of Barangay Cogon for Sustainable Livelihood.

The organization availed of a HALF MILLION worth of SLP from DSWD where ten thousand pesos (P10,000.00) was released to each of the 50 members of the organization, which they must pay back to the organization in one (1) year, without interest.  Sad to know, many of the SAG extractor members of the organization have not fully paid the amount to the organization until now.

The Association of the Women and Men of Barangay Cogon for Sustainable Livelihood is now lending the amount that they have collected to members and non-members in the barangay and this helped the residents a lot, especially during the time of the pandemic. The SAG extractors, on the other hand, continued to extract sand and gravel along the Pagbanganan River despite the constant reminder for them to stop from the Local Government Unit of Baybay and Punong Barangay Pialago.

After Typhoon Agaton, the Mines and Geo-sciences Bureau Regional Office 8 (MGB Region 8) personnel inspected the bridges in the city and caught them in the act extracting sand and gravel. Hon. Pialago said that the MGB geologists reminded them that what they are doing is illegal and must be stopped immediately. But this reminder seemed to fall on deaf ears until Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) Member, Hon. Carmen L. Cari herself was able to take a picture of the sacks of sand and gravel piled near the Duncaan Bridge. Thus, the call for the said meeting.

While in an interview with Forester John Jochiel M. Artajo, Law Enforcement In-Charge of the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (City ENRO), he said that they may be getting only few sand and gravel compared to those with quarrying permits but theirs a continuous extraction thus may have extracted even more SAG than them.

In a meeting with the SAG extractors, Forester Artajo revealed that they even said that they are helping the government so that the water on the Pagbanganan River will not overflow, as what they are doing is like dredging the river, but Forester Artajo explained that there are proper authorities who are mandated to dredge the river.

During the meeting of the Association of the Women and Men of Barangay Cogon for Sustainable Livelihood  on January 22, 2023, Punong Barangay Pialago said that she submitted the names of the SAG extractors to the presiding officer, Vice Mayor Atty. Ernesto Butawan, for appropriate action.

The said meeting was attended by Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) Members Hon. Filemon Avila, Hon. Jorge Rebucas, Hon. Carmen Cari, Hon. Romulo Alcala, Hon. Dr. Fulton Ike Arradaza, Hon. Dominic Junie Murillo, Liga ng mga Barangay President Hon. Philip Siu, Barangay Cogon Punong Barangay Hon. Teresita Pialago, Zone 1 Punong Barangay Mario Cellona, Anna Judessa Alfante and Junsith Sabelino from the 5th Leyte Engineering District-Department of Public Works and Highways (5th LED-DPWH), and For. Emmanuel Tan and For. Joan Joyce Canoy of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Community Environment and Natural Resources (DENR-CENRO).  (Marissa M. Cano, City Information Officer, Baybay City, Leyte)