THE blatant, massive clearing of mangrove forest in the only remaining enclave of small fisherfolks in Bacolod by a private developer who did it without the mandatory public hearing and barangay endorsement of his project, and environmental clearance certificate in the coastal area on the one hand, and the indiscriminate cutting of trees and defoliation in the forestal zone of the Northern Negros Forest Protected Area at Compuestuhan on the other, call for immediate and radical action.

Wanted urgently for Bacolod and the province is well-informed chief on environmental laws and codes, situation and state of their implementation, monitoring, and evaluation. For Negros Occidental there is a need for representation of the province's interest in the governing board of the only remaining natural forest strip of Northern Negros Protected Area Management Zone -- one measure with precedence as the Provincial Management Office (Pemo) chief was designated governor's representative under the two successive Marañon brothers' administration.

An immediate change in the governor's designated representative at the NNPMB, and the assignment of a technically competent person in the person of the Pemo chief is rational, imperative, and critical at this point. The recurrent massive flooding in PAMB covered cities -- San Carlos, Cadiz, Victorias, Silay and Talisay, is indicative of the rather ineffective management of the NNPAMB. Recent rapid land conversions within Multiple Use Zones (MUZ) have been approved, both for private, and public land use--the latter, a controversial highway road network that would link Calatrava to Patag, the former, Memorial Parks, resorts and recreation facilities, Power line sites, and fishpond. Though there is no actual survey data to support it, a cursory scan of where the flooding is at its worst in such cities as San Carlos, Silay, and Victorias, is where there has been the rapid land conversion of reforestation areas to resorts/tourism destination, and choice hill/mountain housing subdivision.

Other than the widespread flooding problem, the great threat to MUZ refo-agroforestry areas rapidly converted to institutional facilities and infrastructures by virtue of actions and decisions of the NNP Management Board under largely 'politicized' control, is a radical diminution of freshwater supply.

At Don Salvador Benedicto, and upland Compuestohan-Cabatangan in Talisay the problem of continuing spring water source is now becoming a real problem, and a source of inter-landowner conflict in the grossly affected areas. The NNP Management must explain the effete monitoring, evaluation and penalty measures given to gross acts of violations.

While Pemo field officers are near burnout by being pressed to "major in minors" such as endless investigations prior to the approval of special orders covering extraction of soil from one's own property to fill a road concreting in another property that has a negative environmental impact, it is precluded from survey and assessment of projects with critical and high impact on the environment like the clearing of trees to give way to upland resort and recreation facilities as in Patag, Compuestohan and Gawahon.

Pemo must be mandated with greater authority and scope of functions, less focus on trivial individual small scale digging of soil, or non-industrial sand and gravel quarrying to industrial, large scale ones, as well as critical land-use conversions to high negative impact government projects.

At this point whence the province has set vast road networks projects that cut through threatened forestal areas and reforestation zones with few remaining bio-diversity, Pemo must be tasked in collaboration with NGOs and competent researchers to come up with environmental situation analysis through rapid appraisal using a drone, geoscan and community-based studies across all the listed expanded integrated protected areas. The City and Municipal Land Use Plans must be reviewed and analyzed if these CLUPs are aligned with the protection and restoration of critical watershed and biodiversity areas of their localities.

The easy way by developers and even DPWH to resort to clearing of mangrove and aged trees in Bacolod and upland Talisay indicate a serious need for vigilant eco-watch of environmentalists in Negros Occidental. Thanks to the immediate response of concerned and watchful citizens in Bacolod under a Facebook chat group, the mangrove clearing of an unscrupulous engineer-developer has been subjected to a cease and desist order proceeding by the local DENR. For Bacolod, the series of environmental crimes points to the great need for the city mayor and his councilors to the environmental code, the clean water act, and other relevant laws for environmental protection.