The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), City Government of Puerto Princesa, and Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) joined hands to save the remaining mangrove areas from destruction caused by illegal occupation by unscrupulous individuals including law enforcers themselves.
Yesterday, DENR PENR Officer Eriberto Sanos, CENR Officer Felizardo Cayatoc, City Environment and Natural Resources Officer of Puerto Princesa City, Atty. Carlo B. Gomez, PCSD Executive Director Atty. Teodoro Jose Matta, City Councilor Elgin Damasco, Punong Barangay Ryan Abueme of Matahimik, Punong Barangay Yolanda Evangelista of Iwahig and other government officials visited the illegally occupied and denuded mangrove area in Sitio Bucana, allegedly occupied by the former City Police Director P/Col. Marion Balonglong.
These government agencies agreed to help each other and work together in order to save the mangroves, file appropriate legal actions to the violators, and rid the mangrove areas from illegal occupants/ informal settlers.
A press briefing was conducted prior to the start of the demolition.
The discovery of the mangrove destruction caused by the police official’s illegal occupation has opened the pandora’s box about the painful truth of the present condition of the mangrove ecosystem in Barangay Iwahig. Cleared, denuded, intruded and encroached by settlements and other forms of activities.
Alex Hermoso, head of the City Government’s Drive Against Professional Squatters and Squatting Syndicates (DAPSASS) said that the Office of the City Mayor ordered them to rid houses in the mangrove areas in an order dated June 15, 2020.
Households of the affected families within the mangrove areas were given 30 days to voluntarily demolish their houses and vacate.
In an interview, Hermoso said that it is ironic that government employees themselves are involved in illegal occupation in the mangrove areas.
“Ito yung area ni (Col) Balonglong, yun ang kay Atong Estrada ng Bantay Gubat (pointing to adjacent fenced and denuded mangrove area). Base sa pag-iimbestiga sa Tagbarungis ay meron din sya (Balonglong) sabi ng caretaker at si Bacuco,” Hermoso said.
The area allegedly occupied by radio reporter, John Paul Bacuco is some few meters closer to Barangay Matahimik relocation site in Sitio Bucana, some 100 meters away from areas allegedly occupied by Balonglong and Estrada.
Some information that a house with steel gate and perimeter fence with an estimated area of 1,000 square is allegedly owned by Bacuco, but one Gerald Saludar claimed that it was his own.
One of the informal settlers in Sitio Bucana, is a former head of the City’s anti-squatting task force identified as Rene Gabilaga who has two bamboo huts, pig pens, and chicken within his area. A confrontation ensued between him and Hermoso, but despite that, demolition with on.
“Pinutol na yung mga mangroves. Tingnan mo yang bakawan, ubos na. Magtatanim na naman tayo,” Hermoso lamented.
Some abandoned houses and temporary structures with mangrove areas were torn down, while fences made of concrete post and barbed wire, buho, and gates were removed by the demolition team.
“Pinapa-open ko ang bakod para makita ng tao ang ginawa ng kawalang hiyaan sa mangroves. Ngayon kitang kita na. Na yan sinira, pinagpuputol ang mga mangroves,” Hermoso said.
When the fence was still enclosed, the cutting of mangroves was concealed from the eyes of the public and the law enforcers.
A Question Hour is set this Monday, June 22, 2020, at the City Council’s regular session, to look into the involvement of some government employees in the occupation of mangroves, and for their failure to report and act on the widespread destruction caused by illegal occupation of mangroves, considered as timberland or land of public domain.