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Friday, March 14, 2014
THE names are certainly a roster of who’s who in the province. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources lists 40 illegal occupants within the 107.77 hectares of the protected zone of the Northern Negros Natural Park (NNNP) in the Municipality of Salvador Benedicto.
The Negros Occidental PENRO report showed that the 40 natural park encroachers, who were served with a cease and desist orders include Murcia Mayor Andrew Montelibano, DSB Mayor Joemax Ortiz, Wilfredo Lozada, Father Arecio P. Dormido, John Michael Lee, Ramón Peñalosa, Leonito Lopue, Caesar Regino, José Joel Yap, Joey Lacson, Anthony Liagoso, Edgar Montano, Jack Maalat, Jeffrey Lim, Geery Grey, Adelaida Francisco, Rudy Escona, Boy Suarez, Teodoro López, Jocelyn Garcia, Jopher Apiladas, Oting Jalandoni, José Henares, Michael Locsin, Ryan Rabasas, Jerry Gerandoy, Danilo Hinlo, Jerry Bantilan, Monet Lacson, Allan Hulet, Hernan Onicillo, Hector Gayares, Jerry Pojo, Bong Ababao, Jorge Camposano, Emma Tamon, Merlinda Blancia, David Villanueva, Robert Arceo, and Ricardo Tan.
The National Integrated Protected Areas System (Nipas) Act designates buffer zones, areas outside the protected area but adjoining it that are established by law (Section 8 of the Act) and under the control of the DENR through the Park Area Management Board.
The PAMB establishes multiple-use zones to provide social fences to prevent encroachment into the protected area by outsiders. Land tenure may be granted to occupants who qualify.
But being outsiders, many if not all of the names cannot qualify for land tenure inside the natural park. According to Rose Pablico, head of Protected Areas, Wildlife and Coastal Zone Management Services, these people cannot build structures inside the protected zone.
It took guts for Rose to issue the CDOs. And I have to commend her for that. But can Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (Penro) head Andre Untal and the DENR follow through what comes after the CDOs, that is, the dismantling of the illegal structures.
As an officer of the court, I have handled cases of unlawful detainer and ejectments of informal settlers.
While I commiserate with the defendants for losing their homes, I cannot advise them to violate the absolute rights of the legal landowner.
I remember the hotly contentious issue within the Mt. Kanlaon Natural Park PAMB, pitting Negros-based NGOs and other environmentalists against PNOC – later the Energy Development Corp. – for excising 169 hectares out of MKNP’s strict protection zone.
Let’s see how our Negrense environmentalists handle these encroachers, their kasimanwas. EDC was something, a perceived outsider from the province. But not when violators are the rich, famous and powerful—and homegrown. What’s poison for the outsider is also poison for the locals.
José María Valencia, the provincial legal officer, chided the public officials served with the order, “How can you expect ordinary individuals to comply with the laws when those who are tasked to implement and protect the laws are the first ones to violate?”
But still, I’m waiting how DENR and Pemo will handle these encroachments from our neighbors and friends. I will leave these to local government agencies to do their jobs. Can they enforce our environmental laws against these powerful names?
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on March 14, 2014.