Smuggling of sand from Cagayan’s ‘Boracay’ bared
BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya–Authorities on Thursday intercepted ten truckloads of white sand that were extracted from the beaches of Santa Ana town in Cagayan, widely touted as “Boracay of the North”.
Mayor Darwin Tobias said the convoy of 10 dump trucks were stopped by police and environment personnel following a chase at Barangay Racat, about 20 km from the source of their load in San Vicente village.
The drivers failed to show any quarry permit or any written order upon verification and questioning, he said.
“(The truck drivers) were dropping the name of the governor as the owner (of the loads of sand). We have yet to confirm that,” the mayor said, referring to Gov. Alvaro Antonio.
The governor, through his staff, denied the truck drivers’ claims.
“There was never any order coming from the governor to extract sand from Anguib. He also denies owning that (shipment),” said Ofelia Parallag, provincial information officer.
According to Tobias, all 10 dump trucks were verified to be owned by the Isabela provincial government. Drivers said they were supposed to deliver the sand in Ilagan City in Isabela, purportedly for the ongoing improvement of the provincial capitol grounds.
“This is an outrage because that area of the beach is supposed to be off-limits to the public, and yet, these people managed to extract white sand without any permits,” he said.
Anguib beach is one of the tourism assets of Santa Ana, which boasts of almost 1-kilometer stretch of fine white sand, which the local tourism sector has been promoting as “Boracay of the North”, in reference to the world-renowned white-beach island in Malay town in Aklan.
Along with the nearby Palaui island, Anguib beach, which is covered by the 54,000-hectare Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport (CSEZFP), has been closed to the public since May for the advance filming of the 27th season of the international reality series “Survivor“.
Tobias said they were alerted by concerned citizens in San Vicente who noticed the arrival of the convoy at around 10:00 a.m. Thursday and proceeding towards Anguib.
“The people at first thought the trucks were delivering relief goods to the community there, but they found out that these were empty. Much to their disgust, they saw that the trucks were already loaded with white sand on their way out,” he said.
Florence Obiano, Santa Ana environment officer, said they tried to flag down the convoy as it reached the town proper but they drove past, prompting authorities to call the local police.
A police patrol gave chase and caught up with the trucks in Barangay Racat, about 20 km from the extraction site.
“The drivers said they had permission from and were working under instructions from one Engr. Bong Aldeguer, a brother of SDA Aldeguer,” she said, referring to Nilo Aldeguer, senior deputy administrator of the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA), the government agency which manages the CEZFP.
This wrtiter tried to reach Nilo Aldeguer but he did not take calls or respond to text messages sent to his mobile phone.
But Julian Jovy Gonzales, CEZFP officer in-charge, said the extraction and transport of the white sand from Anguib to the Isabela provincial capitol may have been a private transaction between the landowner of the beach and engineer Aldeguer, whose private firm, he said, is involved in a number of construction projects in the sub-village of Anguib and Gotan.
“Be as it may, we believe that this deal should have still been covered by a permit which we went through our office. Anyway, we will just await the result of the investigation by the (local government),” he said.