Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo will meet with government offices and agencies and other stakeholders tomorrow to seek a win-win solution in the ongoing dredging controversy in Barangay Tambacan, Poblacion 4 in Tanjay City.

Expected to attend the meeting are the police, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Division, barangay officials and residents.

Degamo went to Tanjay yesterday to dialog with residents of Tambacan and other supporters and sympathizers who are opposing, what they believe, is a black sand mining operation in their barangay.

He and Provincial Administrator Richard Enojo met with the local leaders and protesters at the barangay hall in the presence of Supt. Alet Virtucio, outgoing director of the Negros Oriental Police Provincial Office.

Public clamor to stop the alleged black sand mining under the guise of dredging the Tanjay River to avert any future flooding, has escalated in the past days after irate residents put up barricades at the road leading to the project site when the contractor allegedly violated the cease-and-desist order of Degamo.

Degamo said that Sino Italy Philippines Inc. has failed to present a dredging permit for the river so the CDO will remain in effect. He has also repeatedly warned that he will bring to court violators of the order.

He called on the people to stay calm, and explained the role of the police in the ongoing controversy in Tambacan.

Virtucio said Degamo told the opposition group that the police have very clear orders to remain neutral in the squabble.

The PNP is caught in the middle of the issue but we have no choice but to do the job, he said. “If we do not respond to any request for assistance, we are accused of dereliction of duty. And if we do respond, we are also accused of being biased,” Virtucio said.

He said one agreement reached in yesterday’s dialog was that, in case the contractor pushes through with its operation despite the CDO, the police will be allowed to pass by the barricaded road to reach the project site. He also said the police will not hesitate to enforce the law and make arrests in case of any violation.

The protesters had earlier expressed their belief that the Tanjay police are biased and taking orders from Mayor Lawrence Teves, who has repeatedly ordered the dismantling of the barricades, saying these are illegal.

Teves and other city officials have repeatedly said that the barricaded road belongs to the local government after it was donated by its owner, but this is being disputed by some claimants, who said they have papers to prove their ownership of the property.

Teves is also standing pat on his pronouncement that the project that the city had entered into with Sino-Italy is for the dredging of the Tanjay River, and not for black sand mining.

Any minerals derived from the extracted materials in the dredging project, specifically black sand or magnetite, will go to the contractor as payment for the project, Tanjay officials said.*JFP