BOKOD, Benguet -- The Mount Pulag National Park is in a critical state and continues to be under threat despite actions taken by the different local government units and mountaineering advocates.

More than 10 hectares of forest land inside the Mount Pulag reservation were found to have been burned and cleared and converted into farmlands in Naubanan, Ekip in Bokod, following an investigation and survey by the joint provincial and municipal Anti-illegal Logging Task Force recently.

Mount Pulag Protected Areas superintendent Emerita Albas said of the three areas that the task force investigated at Naubanan, Ekip, at least 200 pine and oak trees were illegally cut and more than 10 hectares of land were also converted into high value crop farmlands.

The 200 trees were located in areas that were investigated and surveyed but hundreds more were found to be cut down and burned along the mountain sides in Naubanan.

The cut trees were mostly for commercial use, to pave way for farmlands and for reported small scale mining activities in Kabayan and Bokod.

Albas said initial investigation showed three areas were illegally converted into farmlands after individuals and eventually their families migrated to forest reservation areas, which are not allowed for residential and commercial use.

Albas said the area in Naubanan had fast forest denudation and uncontrolled development after a road was opened in the area, connecting Barangay Bashoy in Kabayan and Barangay Ekip and Balete in Bokod.

She said there was no road network in the past years and people had to walk to their respective communities through a trail.

Last year, Albas recommended closing the road in a meeting with the Provincial Peace and Order Council.

Albas said the joint task force will validate information and evidence they gathered before filing appropriate complaints against three individuals staying in the forest reserve area of Mount Pulag, particularly for violation of the Forest Code of the Philippines, the Philippine Clean Water Act and the National Integrated Protected Areas System (Nipas) Act.

The report will also be turned over to the local government units and the Environment regional, provincial and city offices.

The task force was led by the provincial and city environment and natural resources offices, together with the operatives from the Police Regional Office–Cordillera and the Bokod Municipal Police Office, Philippine Army 51st Infantry Battalion, National Power Corporation and members of the local media.

Meanwhile, Albas called on everyone to do their share in maintaining, conserving and protecting the Mount Pulag National Park, considered as “mountain of the gods.”

Covering 11,550 hectares, the Mount Pulag National Park was established to protect and preserve its lush vegetation and wildlife. It borders Kayapa, Nueva Vizcaya and Tinoc, Ifugao and Kabayan and Bokod in Benguet. (Redjie Melvic Cawis)