SANTA ANA, Cagayan, Philippines—Officials and residents of this coastal town on Friday protested the alleged environmental destruction caused by the operations of casinos at the Cagayan Special Economic Freeport Zone here.
In a dialogue, they assailed the failure of the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (Ceza) to check on the alleged illegal dumping of garbage and sewage water from two casino complexes, which, they said, has been polluting the town’s waters.
“The people of Santa Ana have long complained about these problems but our calls have not been heeded. It is painful for us to see that these things are happening because this is not what we envisioned [the freeport zone] to be,” said former Councilor Jomar Castillo.
Julian Jovy Gonzales, officer in charge of the Ceza field office here, said the foul odor emanating from water discharged by the treatment plants in the complex could have been due to a technical malfunction.
“But we would like to assure you that water discharged from the treatment plants is not toxic and does not cause any harmful effects on the environment,” he told officials and residents who attended the dialogue at the town’s gymnasium.
Some Ceza officials said it was the town of Sta. Ana itself that had no sewage system. Waste water from the Ceza complex is treated and some are recycled for use in toilets, they said.
Friday’s dialogue between church leaders and local and Ceza officials was conducted amid complaints from residents over the supposed worsening environmental condition in the town due to wastes allegedly produced by the operations of two casinos in Barangay Centro.
The influx of tourists, as well as Chinese workers, caused a waste disposal problem for Santa Ana, they said.
Ceza officials who attended the dialogue apologized to the residents for the problems that had been allegedly caused by the casinos’ operations, but assured them that their office was trying its best to solve these.
Rene Almoradie, village chair of Tangatan, urged officials to inspect the casinos’ treatment facilities to quell suspicions that water being dumped into a lagoon in the village had been causing pollution there.
The two-hectare lagoon used to be a communal fishpond for about 100 families in the area, Almoradie said.–Melvin Gascon, Philippine Daily Inquirer