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Over extraction in Sacobia imperils Clark investments
By Ashley Manabat

Aug 08, 2017

C LARK FREEPORT – An over extraction of sand from the Sacobia River channel has not only endangered the P700- million Sacobia Bridge which links the main zone of this freeport to the vast Clark economic zone but also the northern side of this freeport as well.

If left unchecked, multibillion-dollar investments from a host of multinational companies that set-up factories and buildings near the area might be in danger of being swamped with floodwaters from the river in case of non-stop torrential rains.

As a result of these fi ndings from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), sand quarrying operations on the Pampanga side of the Sacobia River is suspended for another week.

Art Punzalan, Pampanga provincial environment and natural resources officer, said this will allow the MGB to oversee preparations for the rehabilitation of the over extracted quarrying section of the riverchannel and give way to a ground survey in the area and set boundaries.

During Monday’s presentation of the Rapid Assessment Report conducted by the MGB, Noel B. Lacadin, chief of the geosciences division, explained that a 1999 study estimated around 4.7 million cubic meters of lahar that was recommended to be extracted leaving a maximum of 3.4 meters in depth along the river channel and its embankments.

Because of the then heavily silted river channel, Marcos Village was in danger of being eroded based on the 1999 study.

He said after Mt. Pinatubo’s eruption in 1991, Sta. Rita in Concepcion, Tarlac was wiped out by lahar events and in 1992, Tabun, Mabalacat was also wiped out by lahar events which form part of an “alluvial pan.”

He said a secondary explosion in 1991 diverted the lahar upstream of the Abacan River to the Sacobia River that greatly contributed to strong lahar fl ows. It was only in the following year, he said, that another secondary explosion diverted lahar to the Pasig Potrero River system.

Laharized CDC

Lacadin said if no desilting was made in the Sacobia River then, Marcos Village would have been eroded and “we would have a laharized CDC.” The scenarios in the alluvial pan would have happened in Clark, he said.

“We can conclude that the desilting process was a success after that, and from 1999 we were not consulted again by CDC until last week to conduct a study on the present condition of the river channel,” said Lacadin.

Punzalan said more or less only 480,000 cubic meters of sand are remaining that can safely be extracted. He said it will be divided by 24 slots because there are 24 applications for quarry operators and will be raffled off to them. “But this time, we will have a monthly monitoring to prevent over extraction,” he added.

Punzalan said the 4.5 million cubic meters recommended by MGB then was over extracted to up to 12 million cubic meters leaving up to fi ve meters high in the embankments.

“Our duty is to save the environment fi rst because it is already considered as an environmental critical portion,” he said.

Punzalan said a one-kilometer radius from the Sacobia Bridge is now a “no quarry zone.” The up- and downstream sections of the river were identified as possible quarry sites by the MGB but a ground survey will first have to be undertaken, he added.

Access

Gov. Lilia G. Pineda, who was present at the CDC boardroom where the presentation was made, said roads leading to the new quarry sites will be developed to access the areas.

The governor said quarry operators over extracted sand near the bridge because it is near the road and easily accessed while the up and downstream sections bogged down quarry trucks because of the soft ground.

In concluding their report, Lacadin said the river is characterized as “braided upstream which means it is depositing, kayang lundagin kaya dapat desilting (it can easily overtop its banks that is why it should be desilted).”

The management scheme is to straighten the channel, he said.

“But in the middle area it cannot be quarried because it might affect the Sacobia Bridge,” he said.

Others in attendance during the MGB presentation aside from Pineda were Clark Development Corp. (CDC) chair Jesus “Ping” De Jesus and president and CEO Noel F. Manankil, Vice Gov. Dennis “Delta” Pineda, as well as other officials.




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