Independent probe of pollution caused by Ceza casinos pushed
SANTA ANA, Cagayan–Local officials here are pushing for an independent investigation into the waste disposal system adopted by casinos operating within the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport here, amid speculation that regulatory agencies have been going soft on the casino operators despite their supposed violations.
Village leaders called on officials of the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (Ceza) to conduct “an honest-to-goodness inspection” of sewage facilities of two casino complexes here, which have been the subject of complaints from residents over the pollution they have caused on the town’s environment.
“Our people want an honest-to-goodness monitoring, study because with the way the supposed regulatory bodies have performed lately, our people seems to have lost their trust in them,” said Genevy Rodriguez, president of this town’s organization of village officials.
The group aired the plea amid mounting complaints from Santa Ana residents over the obnoxious sewage waste discharged by Eastern Hawaii Casino in Barangay Centro and SunCity Holiday Leisure Resort in Barangay San Vicente.
The officials have blamed Ceza authorities for their supposed failure to check on the casinos’ unabashed dumping of liquid waste into the Diora and Zinungan Rivers, the Babuyan Sea along the Santa Ana coastline, and the Tangatan lagoon.
“We have been assured by Ceza that the water that will be released from the casinos is treated water that would be colorless, odorless and harmless to human and marine life. But how come that they are discharging foul-smelling water,” former councilor Jomar Castillo, said in an interview.
The barangay leaders called for the conduct of “independent and unbiased” laboratory tests of water samples taken from the casinos’ discharges that are released to the sea and the rivers, following earlier results from Ceza-sponsored tests that supposedly cleared these of toxic contamination.
Tangatan village chair Rene Almoradie pushed for the creation a multi-partite team whose membership is open to the public, and will monitor compliance by casino operators to the rules on proper liquid waste disposal.
Jose Ramboanga, Ceza environment chief, welcomed the move, but maintained that the Ceza administration has been closely watching the activities of the casinos which are deemed “environmentally-critical”.
“We have issued notices of violations to the casino management for every violation and we give them a chance to correct these. In fact there were instances that we had to order the cutting of sewage pipes that were improperly draining their waste,” he said.
Julian Jovy Gonzales, Ceza Santa Ana officer in charge, said the the existing sewage treatment plant at Eastern Hawaii Casinos could no longer cope with the volume of water waste generated by the gambling facility due to the steady stream of locators and the number of visitors to the casino.
Ceza would order the suspension of the casinos’ permit should they continue to fail to address the sewage problems, according to Nilo Aldeguer, Ceza senior deputy administrator.
“We would like to assure the (Santa Ana) community that Ceza and the management of Eastern Hawaii are exhausting all means to solve the issue of pollution,” he said in a statement.