KABAYAN, Benguet – Concerned residents challenged environmental groups to initiate the filing of the writ of kalikasan to preserve and protect the remaining forest cover of the Mount Pulag National Park from the syndicated activities of unscrupulous individuals that tend to compromise the state of the second highest mountain peak in the country.
Sources, who requested anonymity for security reasons, claimed that there are massive earthmoving activities of armed and dangerous individuals with the use of several units of heavy equipment and trucks to expand existing vegetable farms and put up their shanties to justify their stay in the said areas.
“We already need drastic actions from concerned environmental groups like what happened in Mount Sto. Tomas to put a stop on the massive deforestation and denudation of critical portions of Mount Pulag. We also need help from outside forces because the perpetrators of the said illegal activities in the watershed are armed and dangerous,” the source stressed.
He added that barangay officials, forest rangers, law enforcers, volunteers among others have a difficult time in ascertaining the identity of the individuals involved in the deforestation activities because they have been advised by their principal not to talk and not to divulge their identities to prevent the filing of the appropriate cases against them and their principals or those who hired them to conduct illegal logging and earthmoving in various portions of the watershed in Tinoc, Ifugao; Kayapa, Nueva Vizcaya and Kabayan and Bokod, Benguet.
Worst, the source disclosed that after the series of operations that were conducted against those involved in illegal logging and earthmoving, the ones that were responsible for the said inspections and operations, including their witnesses, were threatened and harassed by armed men believed to have been hired by the illegal loggers so as to retract their statements against their hired workers to supposedly weaken the cases that will be filed against them.
According to another source, it is high time that drastic actions should be taken by concerned government agencies, local governments and law enforcers to protect the watershed from further denudation and ensure the protection of the watershed from the illegal logging and establishment of commercial vegetable farms to have greatly contributed in the siltation of the lower Agno river and other tributaries.
The source pointed out that the financiers of illegal logging activities and put up of commercial vegetable farms in various portions of Mount Pulag are now taking advantage of the upcoming October 30, 2023 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections to ensure the winnability of their candidates so that they will be able to witfully and freely continue their illegal activities that are grossly disadvantageous to the preservation and protection of the watershed.
He explained that the financiers of the said illegal activities in Mount Pulag can raise up to P10 million to support and ensure the winnability of their desired leaders who will protect their multi-million illegal business that tend to compromise public interest and safety considering the negative effects to the environment of their illegal logging and rapid expansion of commercial vegetable farms.
“We are exposing these illegal activities in Mount Pulag because it seems that the concerned authorities seem to be helpless in putting a stop to the said damaging works. We commend the ongoing efforts to drive away the illegal loggers and purported owners of vast tracks of commercial vegetable farms but they actually need help because of the evident syndicated activities that must be controlled or else Mount Pulag will be denude and converted into farming communities,” the source exclaimed.
He revealed that the illegal loggers and owners of illegal commercial vegetable farms can actually do their thing overnight that is why the current rate of denudation of the watershed is considered to be alarming that warrants the involvement of various government agencies, local governments and even law enforcement units to abate the destruction of the town’s premier tourist destination.
Further, there is also a rapid changing of workers of the commercial farms in the area because once that they had been warned by authorities, the financiers immediately replace them with others from nearby areas of the Cagayan Valley.
The source said that the areas of commercial farms seem to be a haven of hardened criminals who had been using the place as their safe haven for them to evade their liability from the offenses that they have committed.
The source stipulated that it is also disappointing to know that those who are serving as the advisers of the illegal loggers and the financiers of the expanded commercial vegetable farms are even present and former public officials, professionals and even members of the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) who are supposed to uphold public interest over and above the personal interests of their clients.
“Our environmental groups must act now before it will be too late because the instructions to Mount Pulag is so rapid that we might wake up one day and find that the scenery that can be seen are already vegetable farms,” the source said.