It has come to the end of the rope, so said Board Member Winston Arzaga during the session of the provincial board. Palawan Constructors Association Inc. has finally spoken about the looming problem on the supply of gravel, sand and other quarry materials in the province. This issue has long been drawn and, although kept under radar, has undoubtedly produced real impacts to the local construction industry.

The way the issue has unfolded, both sides seem to occupy reasonable ground: PALCAI, as contractors, have a need to obtain supply to deliver their outputs, while the provincial government, with its regulatory functions, has an obligation to temper exploitation in natural resources.

In fact, the two parties are locked in a relationship, where one’s action can draw a response from the other. And a response was drawn indeed, in this case by the provincial government, in the form of a ‘hold’ on the issuance of quarry permits due to cases of over-extraction. In a vacuum,such action by the government is laudable; a move to prevent abuses in resource extraction is certainly good by any measure. Unfortunately, the economy is not a vacuum and the government’s noble intent has proven to have potentially derailed a sector, leaving behind a trail of unmet deadlines and unfinished projects.

Amidst the current clamor, what has been very apparent is that the local government’s response to the issue has been found very wanting. Apparently, the provincial government has not exhausted all means to disseminate information on policies, rules and regulations pertaining to quarry activities in Palawan. Seemingly, communication failed somewhere in the channel that bridges the government and the quarry sector.

It is hence understandable when local contractors resorted to appear before the Provincial Board to raise the issue because they felt “ignored”. The group has been requesting for a dialogue with the PMRB to thoroughly discuss issues, which have directly affected their livelihood, but according to their counsel their complaints have fallen on deaf ears. Even the DPWH, whose construction projects have been impacted, has joined the call for discussion.

At the very least, what this whole issue has emphasized so far is how loose the term “consultation” has become, at least in the context of policy-making. Oftentimes conflict arises when consultation – true, sincere and honest consultation wherein the purpose is to get the voice of the people and not merely to satisfy “compliance” purposes – is missing. Many times project or policy proponents misconstrued some activities as “consultation”, when they are not. And hence, the case with PALCAI and the PMRB.

At the end of the day, while no one will contest that multi-sector cooperation in managing and policing Palawan’s natural resources is of high importance, the concerns raised by PALCAI do warrant a response. The dialogue between the local government and the contractors is long overdue. Even a talk over coffee wouldn’t hurt.

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