3 arrested, others injured as violence erupts at Tanjay 'black sand mining' site

February 14, 2014 7:39 am 

By Judy Flores-Partlow

DUMAGUETE CITY, Feb. 13 (PNA) -– Three persons were arrested and an undetermined number of individuals were injured as violence erupted Thursday afternoon at the already volatile situation at Tambakan in Tanjay City, Negros Oriental over the controversial alleged black sand mining issue.

After hours of failed negotiations and a stand-off between the protesters and the city authorities, by late afternoon, tension escalated and ended with rocks being hurled against authorities after City Legal Officer Arnel Vivar, upon arrival at the scene, insisted on entering the barricaded road.

Earlier, city engineer Chester Reyes and a number of job order employees were deployed to remove the barriers and disperse the people guarding the road leading to the project site. However, after several hours, Reyes failed to carry out the order of Tanjay City Mayor Lawrence Teves.

Reyes kept on convincing the opposing residents to allow them to take apart the barricades on a road which the city claims to belong to private property but to no avail.

Peaceful negotiations and a stand-off prevailed for several hours at the site, with uniformed policemen armed with only billy clubs and truncheons on standby while the protesters stood their ground. Some of them were carrying images of the Child Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary and a Crucifix, while others kept on singing religious songs.

Some women became emotional during media interviews and appealed to the mayor to listen to their pleas, saying that they had initially believed in his leadership and had voted for him such that he had remained in his position for three consecutive terms.

It was only a matter of time before the violent confrontation came on the 7th day of protests by Tambakan village residents and sympathizers who had established barricades along the road leading to the project site of the contractor, Sino-Italy Philippines, Inc.

The protesters had set up barricades to prevent the contractor from accessing the project site after last week’s alleged testing of their machines despite a cease and desist order from Governor Roel Degamo in the absence of a dredging permit.

For the past days, a peaceful protest with barricades set up at the road leading to the site continued while negotiations were being carried out by the city government, the police, residents and other stakeholders.

However, on Thursday morning, Tanjay City Mayor Lawrence Teves requested the Negros Oriental Philippine National Police Office (NOPPO), headed by OIC provincial police director Supt. Alet Virtucio, for police assistance as the city was ready to dismantle the barricades.

Supt. Virtucio said he deployed at least 39 uniformed policemen from the Provincial Public Safety Company as a Civil Disturbance Management (CDM) team to the site to maintain peace and order but his instructions to them were very clear during a briefing on the rules of engagement.

Virtucio said he directed his men and women to stay clear from violent confrontation and exercise maximum tolerance but they must not get physically involved in the clearing of the road or the dismantling of barricades as it is the city engineering office who is tasked to do this.

However, after Atty. Arnel Vivar arrived at the scene, and a scuffle had taken place between him and Msgr. Roberto Caday, vicar general of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, protesters stood their ground and resisted the efforts of the city government workers who pushed their way forward in an attempt to disperse the crowd.

Vivar then allegedly grabbed Msgr. Caday by the arm which prompted the protesters to protect the religious leader.

In the ruckus, Vivar was pulled out of the site to safety by some people apparently securing him.

Governor Roel Degamo, who was informed of the commotion, spoke over the mobile phone to the people to not listen to and obey Vivar. He warned of filing proper charges against those violating the Cease and Desist Order that he issued against Sino-Italy in the absence of a dredging permit.

Police arrested at least three persons for allegedly throwing rocks at them and were brought to the police station for proper booking and filing of charges.

Supt. Virtucio said he is challenging all parties concerned to file proper charges if they were hurt or harassed during the confrontation and subsequent commotion at Tambakan.

According to him, Msgr. Caday can also file a case against Atty. Vivar if he wants to, but the religious leader said he has not decided on it yet.

Tension died down after the protesters observed that Vivar and other city government workers had already left the area.

The police troops, meanwhile, immediately withdrew after Gov. Degamo gave the orders to Supt. Virtucio for this.

Protesters have warned that they will not leave the area for as long as the contractor will not abandon the project and leave the Tambakan site. (PNA)

LAP/JFP

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