AFP to protect Pulag reservation

La Trinidad, Benguet -- Soldiers will now be detailed to protect a sacred mountain.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines will now set up camp at the perimeters of Mt. Pulag in a bid to thwart encroachment and illegal logging activities in the area.

Mt. Pulag, the highest peak in Benguet Province, at 2,924 meters and is a favorite trek for climbers who want experience the sunrise at its highest point, is also considered a sacred mountain and is tagged as the playground of the gods.

AFP support was agreed to be a must during the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) meeting last week because of extensive logging and continued garden expansion in the protected area.

"Considering the magnitude of illegal activity, as it is well financed and to prevent further expansion of the gardens and other destruction, the Armed Forces of the Philippines shall be requested to be based and camp in sito," the PPOC said.

The report was presented by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Provincial Environment and Natural Office (Penro) and likewise recommended "A checkpoint shall also be installed at the junction near the Mt. Pulag Primary School and shall be jointly manned by the barangay, the local government unit, police, AFP, NPC and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources."

Benguet Governor Nestor Fongwan said soldiers under the 51st Infantry Battalion will be stationed in the area after Bokod officials asked for help to stop illegal activities at Barangay Ekip.

The DENR report was certified by Edgardo Flor, Cenro officer-in-charge as well as three forest rangers and also sought the help of "Protected area superintendents and National Power Corporation to ensure smooth and synchronized action towards abatement if illegal logging activities and other forest destructions and depletion within protected areas, watersheds, forest lands and other untenured areas."

Fongwan said a task force will be convened to monitor activities within the reservation and to protect the forest.

The Mt. Pulag area touches parts of Buguias, Bokod, Kayapa and Tinoc but is 80 percent part of Kabayan, The boundaries of the reservation reaches as far as Viscaya and Ifugao.

The National Park covers 11,550 hectares were established to protect and preserve the natural features of the area such as its outstanding vegetation and wildlife.

Bokod officials are also hoping to form a covenant or agreement stressing there shall be no expansions and the site shall be rehabilitated.
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