THE owners and a manager of the “Secret Peak Buda Cafe” in Davao City are facing charges for violating Republic Act (RA) 9072, also known as the "National Caves and Cave Resources Management and Protection Act," said the National Bureau of Investigation-Southeastern Mindanao Regional Office (NBI-Semro).
On April 29, 2023, NBI-Semro Regional Director Arcelito Albao said they had served the search warrant issued by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Acting Executive Judge Rowena Apao-Adlawan. The warrant was dated April 28, 2023.
Albao said the search warrant was requested by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Davao Region (DENR-Davao) Regional Executive Director (RED) Bagani Fidel Evasco.
“Yesterday, gi-implement namo ang (we implemented the) search warrant, and true enough they really violated the said law and naay mga nakuha na mga furniture sa sulod, lights and naay mga replacement sa atong mga stalagmite and stalactite (and we found furniture, lights, and there’s a replacement of the stalagmite and stalactite),” he said.
In issuing the search warrant, Adlawan has found “good and sufficient reasons to believe that Secret Peak Buda Cafe’ and Staycation, and John Doe (owner) is destroying, disturbing, defacing, altering and removing speleogem or speleothem of the cave, and is not licensed to operate nor a grantee of any permit from the DENR to destroy, disturb, deface, alter and remove speleogem or speleothem and other cave resources.”
Adlawan also has ordered to seize the furniture like sofa, chairs, chandeliers, beds and light fixtures installed inside the cave, and other cave resources.
During the search warrant in Secret Peak Buda Cafe at Purok 11, Sitio Langub, Brgy Baganihan, Marilog, District, Davao City, Albao said they have arrested its manager who was from Manila.
“Regardless kung manager or owner siya (if he is the owner or the manager), they will be imprisoned for two years to six years and will have to pay P20,000 to P500,000,” Albao said in an interview with SunStar Davao on April 30, 2023.
The “National Caves and Cave Resources Management and Protection Act” is a law in the Philippines that conserves, protects, and manages caves and cave resources as part of the country's natural wealth.
Albao said they have found out that some of the stalagmite and stalactite in the cave were sawed off and replaced with something else.
“Naay replacement sa atong mga stalagmite and stalactite, ilahang gipangbali na, gipangtabas (Some of the stalagmites and stalactites were replaced – they have removed it from the cave and sawed it),” he said.
He added that DENR-Davao said these stalagmite and stalactite have grown for a “long time”.
Meanwhile, Albao said the manager has contested the claim that their resort was operating without a license.
“Ang ilang ginaingon naa daw sila’y permit and authority or papers from the government of Arakan Valley (they claimed that they have a permit and authority to operate which are from the government of Arakan),” he said.
However, Albao said that DENR-Davao claimed that the location of the resort is part of Davao City and not in Arakan Valley.
Following the incident, Albao reminded Dabawenyos to abide by the law when it comes to opening resorts especially if located within ancestral domains.
He said resort owners should secure a certification from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), certification and permit from the DENR, and other necessary documents and permits from the government.
“Otherwise, we will arrest people who will violate the environmental law. Dili mi mo-stop og raid, pang-aresto ug file og kaso (we will not stop in our raid operations, arrest, and file cases against the violators,” Albao said. KSD with reports from PIA-Davao