The Palawan NGO Network Incorporated (PNNI), through its environmental para-enforcers, has recently discovered an approximately 100-hectare cleared area of forest in Bunog, Rizal, Palawan, which is reportedly being developed into a rubber tree plantation. According to Atty. Robert Chan, Executive Director of PNNI, based on the readings of coordinates, the area falls within the boundaries of the Mount Mantalingahan Protected Landscape (MMPL).
“They should be protected rather than cleared. Nakita n’yo naman sa picture diba? Ay ito klinear eh. Yung mga punong nakatayo, may tanim na sa ilalim na rubber,” Chan lamented.
PNNI officially raised their concern to the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD). In their letter to the Council dated October 7, the non-profit group sought clarifications on some issues, like who promoted rubber plantations in Palawan when the tree is not endemic in the province and if the said clearing at Mt. Mantalingahan has a corresponding SEP clearance and Environmental Compliance Certificate.
The NGO also pointed out that plantations, be them palm oil, cacao or rubber, are in incongruity to the idea of a province known as the “Last Frontier”.
Meanwhile, PCSD Spokesperson Jovic Fabello said they will be sending a team this week to validate the complaint. “But generally, hindi naman ibig sabihin na protected area ay for protection na lahat. Puede naman na may area for production…but we will still have to validate,” he said.
Fabello added that if ever there was indeed a violation, whoever is behind the project will be held liable.
Mt. Mantalingahan Protected Landscape, which covers around 120, 457 hectares and reaches at approximately 6, 800 feet above sea level, was formally declared as a protected area on June 23, 2009, by virtue of a presidential proclamation by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.