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Bacolod City, Philippines Saturday, November 23, 2013
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Settlers selling forest lands

More than 30 hectares of the Northern Negros Natural Park protected zone in Brgy. Bagong Silang,Salvador Benedicto, have been sold by illegal settlers to private individuals, and the number is expected to increase.

This will be after more areas are visited and inspectedby the Task Force Ilahas, an environmental enforcement unit of the provincial government of Negros Occidental, and personnel of the Bacolod Community Environment and Natural Resources Office.

In his report to Provincial Environment and Natural Resources OfficerValentin Talavero, Police Chief Inspector Gabriel Gutierrez, TFI action officer, said they discovered on Nov. 20 that an estimated sevenhectares of the Integrated Social Forestry area at Spur 15 inSalvador Benedicto had been convertedinto a cock farm.

Concrete structures had also been set up on a five-hectare area at Spur 23, that is part of the NNNP in Salvador Benedicto.

TFI and Bacolod CENRO personnel are also discovered permanent structures built inside the park, especially in Sitio Dahonan, Spur 6 and 7, also inSalvador Benedicto.

Fishponds, poultry and piggery farms were reported by TFI to have been set up inside the park.

TFI investigations also show that almost 90 percent of the land area of Salvador Benedicto is classified as forestal and located inside NNNP. Private individuals, especially influential personalities, want to own property in the area for their rest houses, mountain resorts and even cock farms.

SPO1 Stanley Mendoza, a member of the TFI and an investigator of the Negros Occidental PNP Public Safety Company, said yesterday that about 30 hectares of the park have been encroached on by private individuals,based on reports relayed to them.

Earlier, Gov. Alfredo Marañon had ordered an investigation of the encroachment on the NNNP by illegal settlers, who had sold the areas tilled to private individuals.

In his report, Gutierrez, said the cock farm at Spur 15 was surrounded with barbed wires and structures have been built inside it.

He recommended to the DENR that private individuals who have purchased lots within the NNNP protected zone be summoned, to explain their activities inside the park.

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

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

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