OWNERS of 11 illegal structures encroaching the Northern Negros Natural Park (NNNP) in Negros Occidental have been indicted for violation of forest laws.
Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (Penro) head Edgardo Rostata, in a press statement on February 27, said 11 cases were filed before the court for violations of the National Integrated Protected Areas System.
The statement said the accused were “successfully prosecuted” due to the guilty verdict while many cases are still pending in courts.
Penro has also demolished six illegal structures without claimants.
Seventy-five percent of the areas that were covered with cease and desist orders (CDOs) “have been individually re-inventoried and re-assessed and are now under review of the legal team and technical men of NNNP.”
Non-compliance of the CDOs will be subjected to criminal and other legal actions by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the statement added.
“In the face of these challenges, countless efforts, strong continuous law enforcement, partnership arrangements and prosecution, as well as policy initiatives through a recommended site-specific administrative procedure for violations committed within the protected area have been introduced in order to minimize, if not eradicate the violations committed within the park,” Rostata said.
“The NNNP is not the only protected area in the country that has a nagging issue and problem on illegal structures. In fact, it is one of the most persistently faced common problems among the protected areas in the country. It must be emphasized that policies and guidelines of the DENR should not solely rely on prosecution and litigation in order to address this problem on illegal structures,” he added.
Moreover, the Protected Area Management Board and the Protected Area Superintendent have concluded the evaluation and validation of areas developed for projects and activities based on the allowed development and prescriptions in the General Management Plan of the NNNP.
“Community-based approach in law enforcement is seen as the best strategy to prevent illegal activities,” Rostata said.
He said the “conservation and protection of our environment is everyone’s responsibility and Penro, as one of the front lines of the advocacy, works collaboratively with various stakeholders to eradicate the effects of illegal activities.”
The Penro head urged groups and organizations to just “walk their talk” and be “part of the solution” in protecting Negros Occidental’s last frontier.