Rape of Mt. Pulag-A A +A
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
THAT’S how Governor Nestor Fongwan described the dire straits of Mt. Pulag. And it’s good to learn that the Gov has decided to give the “playground of the gods” the particular attention it badly needed considering the mountain’s rapid deterioration. The dispatch of a military camp, courtesy of the 51st Infantry Batallion, at the foot of Mt. Pulag is one gambit illegal loggers and speculators must really be wary of.
The rape of Mt. Pulag though did not just happen yesterday. Like Mt. Data in the border of Benguet and Mt. Province, Mt. Pulag has suffered tremendously from the intrusion of man and the encroachment on its slopes. The invasion had gone from bad to worse over the years.
I was there when DENR officials met with the natives residing near Lake Tabeyo at the foot of Mt. Pulag. The DENR asked the residents to stop the expansion of their vegetable farms into the periphery of the mountain. The people though said the lands formed part of their ancestral lands. Ancestral lands not in the sense of a judicial fiat or executive decree but in terms of years of habitation and abode that has made farming their tradition. A lot of them invoked hereditary rights, saying that the farmlands were passed on to them by their ascendants.
The dialogue I witnessed resulted to a consensus – that the people will allow the DENR to conduct a survey to determine the boundaries of Mt. Pulag, particularly within Kabayan. The people, in the meantime, also agreed not to move further an inch from the last square meter of their gardens pending the conduct of the survey. I don’t know if the survey was completed. Perhaps the DENR could apprise the Gov of the minutes of that meeting.
I will understand if the police and the military will arrest those caught inflagrante delicto cutting down trees or transporting logs. But I am just curious how the law enforcers would deal with farmers caught clearing an area within the vicinity of Mt. Pulag when their line of defense would be “this is our family’s land.” No arrest can be made right then and there. The situation calls for due process.
There’s one thing I noticed though in the course of my coverage of Mt. Pulag then. This is the friction between the DENR and the local government unit of Kabayan. Some officials of the DENR have accused local officials of coddling encroachers or simply letting them go. The local officials, on the other hand, claimed the government office is meddling too much into what appears to be a very local problem. They said that the portions Mt. Pulag that fall within Kabayan’s jurisdiction should be managed by the LGU. I hope that the friction has already been solved.
It really takes guts, in the form of political will, to rid Mt. Pulag of illegal encroachers. If this is the direction our present local government units are bent to do, then it’s one sign of good things to come.
I just hope too that the backhoe that I saw when I joined the DENR to Lake Tabeyo in 2008 is not the same backhoe which the Gov. said he saw recently.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on October 24, 2013.