JPE clout

Smuggled white sand traced to JPE’s Cagayan resort

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya–The truckloads of white beach sand that were seized Thursday in a foiled smuggling attempt in Santa Ana in Cagayan were extracted from a private resort reportedly owned by Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, sources said on Tuesday.

The source, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, said the 10 truckloads of white sand came from Enrile’s resort property, which is undergoing development at Gotan beach in San Vicente village.

The white sand was requested by Isabela Gov. Faustino “Bojie” Dy III and was supposed to be delivered to Ilagan City in Isabela for an ongoing project at the provincial capitol grounds.

“It was requested by the governor through Mr. James Kocher,” said the source, referring to the senator’s son in-law and is supposedly the current administrator of the property.

On Thursday, local police intercepted the convoy of 10 trucks following a brief chase as these were travelling along the San Vicente-Dugo road in Barangay Racat, about 20 km from the quarry source.

Santa Ana Mayor Darwin Tobias ordered the seizure of the loads of white sand after truck drivers failed to show quarry permits for their cargo.

The attempted smuggling of white sand caused an uproar among Santa Ana residents, Tobias said, amid continued public outcry over the unabated blacksand mining activities in neighboring coastal towns of Cagayan.

“Some concerned citizens saw the convoy, and they started calling me up. I was already being wrongly accused of supposedly allowing the extraction of white sand,” he said.

Anguib and Gotan beaches are being promoted by local tourism authorities for its white sand, naming it “Boracay of the North”. These, however, have become off-limits to the public as they have been converted into private resorts, mostly through development programs pushed by the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA).

After the seizure, the loads of sand were dumped in front of the Santa Ana town hall, but the drivers and the trucks, which are owned by the Isabela provincial government, were released, according to Inspector Jose Cabaddu Jr., Santa Ana police deputy chief.

He said no cases were being readied against the drivers. He could not say if investigation will continue, as the suspected source of the white sand is a restricted area.

Sought for comment, Dy admitted that his office was at fault for not making sure that all permits were secured prior to the transport of the sand.

“It was really our mistake and I would like to personally offer my apologies to the mayor, as it would look like we had completely disregarded (the local government). That was never our intention,” he said in a phone interview.

Dy said he had asked Cagayan Gov. Alvaro Antonio for a “small volume” of sand for the capitol project, who referred him to Kocher “because that is their area”.

“I had thought that our (officials) had secured all the necessary permits so I gave the go-signal for the transport. Unfortunately, that was not the case and I take responsibility for that error,” he said.

According to the governor, the loads of sand were to be used for a “skyport” project that the Isabela government is constructing.

“That is a 20,000 to 25,000-seater structure so the initial plan of using decorative tiles would be so expensive. We’re trying to save up on funds, that’s why we thought that the use of the yellowish sand (from Santa Ana) would be a cheaper alternative,” the governor said.

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