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Bacolod City, Philippines Tuesday, November 19, 2013
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More encroach in natural park

Task Force Ilahas has discovered that more areas of the Northern Negros Natural Park protected zone in Brgy. Bagong Silang, Don Salvador Benedicto, have been purchased by private individuals from illegal settlers, who formerly resided in the area.

In his report to Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr, through Jose Ma. Valencia, TFI executive officer, Police Chief Inspector Gabriel Gutierrez, TFI action officer, said they discovered that more permanent structures have been built inside the park, especially in Sitio Dahonan, Brgy. Bagong Silang, Don Salvador Benedicto.

A Talisay resident had built a permanent structure in a three-hectare area of the park protected zone, with a fishpond, piggery and poultry farm in it.

Another four hectares of the NNNP protected zone, purchased by an Escalante businessman, was developed into a fishpond for raising tilapia.

Gutierrez said the businessman from Escalante also purchased lots at Spur 6 and 7 in Don Salvador Benedicto, which also form part of the NNNP.

This businessman was also the subject of complaints of the Bagong Silang Binhi Association, whose members reported to the Provincial Environment Management Office, through its Task Force Ilahas, who had barred them from 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,which is being claimed by the Escalante businessman to have been purchased from residents in the area.

Gutierrez said a resident of Brgy. Marcelo, Calatrava, who allegedly bought the area from a member of the Indigenous People, who formerly occupied the area, also converted a portion of the park into a sugarcane farm.

TFI investigations show that residents of Bagong Silang have been tolerated to engage in farming activities inside the park, and later sold their farm lots to private individuals because of the tourism potentials.

The unabated encroachment into the park by private individuals who want to establish permanent structures inside, Gutierrez said, puts the remaining forest cover in danger of abuse.

The trend now in Don Salvador Benedicto is for town residents to occupy a portion of the park, and sell it to individuals interested to build rest houses or mountain resorts inside the NNNP, because of its conducive weather, even without tenurial instruments, he added.

Illegal settlers who had sold their occupied area, clear another portion of the forest and will probably also sell it in the future to interested buyers, Gutierrez said.

He recommended an inventory of the areas occupied by illegal settlers, the filing of charges against those who had purchased lots inside the park, and the demolition of permanent structures inside the NNNP.*GPB

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