Who’s earning from Maasin rock crusher?
By Francis Allan L. Angelo
TWO Ilonggo representatives are wondering why two different entities are running the operations of the controversial rock crusher plant at Barangay Caigon, Maasin, Iloilo.
During the penultimate leg of the Iloilo international airport investigation the other day, Reps. Arthur Defensor (3rd district, Iloilo), and Ferj Biron (4th district, Iloilo) found out that while Estancia-based merchant Melvin Requinto got the permit to run the plant, the Montesclaros family from Bukidnon province in Mindanao is the one earning from its operation.
The rock crusher plant “refines” filling materials for the airport project at the Cabatuan-Sta. Barbara area per requirements of the Japanese contractor Taisei-Shimizu joint venture (TSJV).
Requinto, a gasoline dealer and general merchant from Estancia town, got a permit from the provincial government to operate the plant in Maasin.
Requinto claimed he rented the plant from the Montesclaros family, the in-laws of Barotac Viejo Mayor Raul Tupas who is the son of Governor Niel Tupas Sr.
But during the investigation on Tuesday, TSJV representatives, through legal counsel and former Iloilo vice governor Roberto Maroma, admitted they are actually doing business with the Montesclaros family and not with Requinto.
Maroma confirmed to the House committee that the Montesclaroses entered into a contract with TSJV to supply crushed rocks to the airport project.
“What is clear now is that while Requinto is the permitee to run the plant, Montesclaros is the one who has a contract with the Japanese firms to supply crushed rock to the project,” Defensor said.
But Defensor added: “We will evaluate this development further. The committee will look into the implications of this setup to our existing regulations.”
Biron said Requinto “is purely a dummy of Montesclaros.”
“Why will Montesclaros, who is not a quarry permitee, deliver filling materials to the airport site? It is strange that Requinto, who has the permit to operate the plant, does not engage in actual sale of the products that he was licensed to process,” Biron said.
The committee also required TSJV to provide a copy of the contract and all purchase receipts issued by Montesclaros Construction in the next airport project hearing.
In a separate interview with The Guardian, Maroma said the contract between TSJV and Montesclaros may have been part of their internal arrangement.
“According to the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office, there is nothing wrong with such setup if that is the internal agreement between the contractor and the supplier. Requinto was given a permit because he was capable of putting up the plant,” Maroma said.
Maroma clarified the contract between Montesclaros and the TSJV is not exclusive.
But during the April leg of the airport investigation, the committee found out that Requinto was not registered with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to engage in construction and quarry business.
Requinto only registered his business with the DTI as a quarry firm in December 2004, three months after getting his permit from the provincial government.
Meanwhile, Defensor said they have required Department of Transportation and Communication Secretary Leandro Mendoza to appear in the next hearing to explain the 55.60 percent slippage in the airport project.
“We demanded no less than the presence of Secretary Mendoza since there are matters which his emissaries cannot answer,” Defensor said.
Biron said the Japanese contractor admitted the slow progress in the groundwork of the new airport site has affected the project.
“Maybe because there is only one rock crusher that is operating, the contractor cannot go full scale in the groundwork,” Biron said.
Maroma said the delay in the airport cannot be attributed to the TSJV.
“The four-month delay in the awarding of the contract to the winning bidder, in this case the TSJV, also affected the progress of the project. The initial plan was to start the construction in January last year but due to problems in the bidding, actual works began in April 2004,” Maroma said.
Maroma also cited problems of the remaining tenants and residents at the airport and burrow pit sites as factors which delayed the airport project.
Even the quality of filling material from the burrow pit in Sta. Barbara impeded the construction, Maroma said.
“The soil from the burrow pit has high moisture content so the contractor has to wait for a long time in order for the soil to dry before resuming with the construction. The contractor decided to mix sand with soil from the burrow pit to solve this problem,” Maroma said.
With the regulation of heavy duty trucks passing through Cabatuan and Maasin areas, Maroma said the project will be delayed even more.
“But the actual delay is only 10-11 percent according to the explanation of the Japan Airport Consultants,” Maroma said.
Gov. Tupas also attended the committee investigation but he has yet to return to the capitol as of yesterday morning. (Published in The Guardian-Western Visayas, November 11, 2005 issue)