Forest land illegally sold in Negros Occidental – task force
BACOLOD CITY, Philippines – A number of informal settlers in Negros Occidental are making a business out of occupying and selling portions of a public park in the town of Don Salvador Benedicto to private individuals interested in building rest houses or mountain resorts.
Task Force Ilahas, the environmental enforcement unit of the provincial government, has found that more than 30 hectares of the Northern Negros Natural Park (NNNP) have been sold by illegal settlers to private individuals – and the number is expected to rise.
There is now a trend in Don Salvador Benedicto wherein informall settlers occupy NNNP areas, sell them to interested individuals, then transfer to another area to possibly sell them in the future, said police chief inspector Gabriel Gutierrez, Task Force Ilahas action officer, in his report to provincial environment and natural resources officer Valentin Talavero.
Some areas of the NNNP – dubbed as the summer capital of Negros for having a climate similar to Baguio City – have been converted into cock and poultry farms, Gutierrez said.
Permanent structures surrounded with barbed wires have been also constructed – an indication that the settlers plan to stay long in the areas.
Gutierrez said Task Force Ilahas has discovered the following:
- An estimated 7 hectares of the Integrated Social Forestry area at Spur 15 inSalvador Benedicto has been converted into a cock farm
- Concrete structures have been set up on a 5-hectare area at Spur 23
- TFI and Bacolod City Environment and Natural Resources Office personnel found permanent structures built inside the park, especially in Sitio Dahonan, Spur 6 and 7
Almost 90% of the land area of Don Salvador Benedicto is located inside NNNP. In 2001, almost one million board feet of endemic trees, including almaciga, were cut down by poachers in the area.
Even the 700-hectare government reforestation area has not been spared by private individuals.
The Bagong Silang Binhi Association reported to the Task Force Ilahas that a businessman, who claims to have bought the rights to occupy the area from residents residing at the park, has barred them for entering the area.
The BSBA is a people's organization contracted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Energy Development Corporation to reforest and protect the 700-hectare area in Brgy Bagong Silang, Don Salvador Benedicto.
The barangay of Bagong Silang is the watershed area of the town of Don Salvador Benedicto. Gutierrez warned that should encroachment activities continue, the town's source of potable water for personal and agricultural use will be in peril.
The area's cool weather and tourism potential has attacted buyers, especially of properties along the national highway traversing Bagong Silang in Don Salvador and Sagay City.
Gutierrez said the local government must file of charges against the identified buyers and sellers of public land to send a strong message.
Gov. Alfredo Marañon has ordered an investigation of the encroachment on the NNNP by illegal settlers. - Rappler.com