Nine years of laments: How residential subdivision dwellers endured alleged pollution from a construction firm

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(First of four parts)

BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – Every day, for the past nine years, Joresty Coronica endured the noise from a batch plant owned by Silver Dragon Construction Corporation, a prime construction firm based here.

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Coronica, a police lieutenant colonel, only felt relief when he was deployed as part of a peace-keeping mission abroad.

In war-torn Kosovo.

There, the noise were intermittent explosions and gunfire.

It was a country under conflict.

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Back home, at JJ Gonzaga Subdivision, one of the first residential subdivisions, Joresty had to contend with hours of droning noise coming from the plant where concrete is being mixed.

“Persistent, irritating,” he tells DNX in Hiligaynon in a recent sit-down interview with him and several other residents.

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Like the police officer, Raul Uy and Joseph Daniel, both small businessmen, have been enduring various forms of what can only be described as pollution – from air to noise to water – based on their allegations.

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And at least 200 other residents who have sought redress from city officials over nine years, three mayors and two village chiefs, feel the same way, too.

In this three-part special report on Reklamo Publiko, DNX will take a look at the complaints of residents of JJ Gonzaga Subdivision, one of the oldest residential areas established here and how city officials acted or did not act on these complaints.

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Parts 1 and 2 will look at the paper trail – from the first letter sent to Lolamae Gebusion, sanitation officer of the City Health Office on 15 October 2012 to their latest letter to Mayor Evelio Leonardia on 3 August 2020 and, in between, various communications to two village chiefs, two councilors, two other mayors, and even to Silver Dragon owner Jerry Sy.

Part 3 will discuss the actions taken by the three mayors over nine years, from Monico Puentevella to Greg Gasataya to Leonardia.

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Part 4 will explore the issues of permits and the related consultations conducted, or the lack of it, and existing local and national laws that could have possibly been violated by Silver Dragon, if any, and moves from the firm to declare a conversion of the area from residential to commercial.

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The answers of officials who were sent letters by the homeowners will also be discussed in this part as well as the actions that will be taken by the local government on the renewed appeal from residents for it to take action on their complaints.

THE GENESIS

On 15 October 2012, residents of JJ Gonzaga Subdivision represented by Benjie Reyes sent a letter to Lolamae Gebusion, Sanitation Inspector V of the City Health Office.

In the one-page letter, the residents informed Gebusion about their complaints and filed their “strongest protest on the continued presence and operation of Silver Dragon Construction in our purely residential subdivision.”

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The letter indicates that the operations of the batching plant had been going on for two years already and has created “grave health hazards and environmental problems to our residents.”

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Reyes detailed these complaints in the letter, which we quote in full:

  1. The dust that the cement, sand and gravel stir up when these are transported, piled, and mixed pose a constant threat to the residents especially the children and the elderly and those already suffering from asthma, skin allergies, and other respiratory ailments. The problem gets worse during summer when everything is very dry. We are forced to keep our windows tightly closed in order to minimize the entry of dust.
  2. The batching operation continues even at night and the noise made by the heavy equipment prevents everybody from having a peaceful sleep. There is an elementary school in the vicinity and the children on their way to and from the school are constantly in danger of being ran over by the daily heavy traffic of loaded trucks and mixers. The subdivision’s main road is also heavily damaged.
  3. Even when there is no batching operation, the noise from the construction company never ceases. There is always some kind of construction going on. The constant banging of metal plates will jolt you out of your wits. Those suffering from hypertension are at risk of a nervous breakdown. Their public address system has turned our subdivision into a public plaza.

Reyes also pointed out they have presented their complaints to the village chief, who was then Leonardo Suansing but over two years “no action had been taken.”

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Eight years ago, their question was: “why was Silver Dragon allowed to operate a batching plant inside a purely residential subdivision?”

Tomorrow: Unanswered letters

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