The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will file separate cases against the illegal settlers who have occupied lands and cut down trees within the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice (DOJ) in Barangay Montible.
The decision was made by both agencies following BuCor’s demolition Sunday, October 13, of around 10 newly-built and abandoned houses in the Montible area.
Iwahig Corrections Facility (ICF) senior superintendent Geraldo Aro said the structures they demolished were unoccupied with some reportedly being used as resting spots of unauthorized settlers who also engage in illegal logging.
“Ang mga dinemolish ko ngayon ay ito ‘yong mga newly-built na structures, ‘yong mga abandoned. Pending ‘yong iba kasi doon may mga family na ididemanda ko ngayon ‘yan, kukunin natin sa legality ‘yan,” he said.
Aro said that they will file the cases in compliance with their mandate under the Republic Act 10575 or “The Bureau of Corrections Act of 2013”, stating the protection and preservation of the DOJ’s property.
He said that he had already given instructions for an inventory of the total number of households following claims by a Tagbanua indigenous peoples group that around 200 families have already occupied the area.
“Meron sa ngayon (nakatira na IPs), ngayon niri-ready ko na, we will file appropriate charges against them. Probably next week,” he said.
He said that the demolition team was composed of personnel of the DENR’s Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) and Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) along with the Philippine National Police (PNP) Luzvimida composite team covering Km. 29 to 35.
He said more than three notices have already been served to the illegal settlers to vacate the area but no one was responding.
Aro said that aside from their structures, the settlers who have encroached have also been discovered to be engaging in illegal logging.
Jessie Jesus Villados of the PENRO enforcement unit said that the land area was claimed by a Melino Bacquiao, an IP leader of the Tagbanua IP residing in a land that has an existing application for Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) to the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).
“Hindi naman puwede maging ancestral domain ang BuCor dahil hindi nila pag-aari ito, hindi ng NCIP (National Commission of Indigenous People). Nag-occupy sila sa area at inamin ni Bacquiao na sila raw ang nagki-claim which is impossible,” he said.
He said that Bacquiao and his clan residing in the area had engaged in charcoal-making and cutting of trees without permission from the DENR.
He said that Kamagong trees are what they are making as charcoals, as well as other hardwood trees.
“Nakikita natin na masyado ng grabe itong ginagawa ng mga tao na ito sa ating kagubatan, pag-aari pa ng BuCor pa man din, under presidential proclamation, hindi nila pwedeng angkinin ‘yon na pag-aari ni NCIP,” he said.
Bacquiao could be liable for violating Section 77 of Presidential Decree 705 due to illegal cutting and Section 78 for illegal slash-and-burn farming and occupancy.
He said that after the inventory of the remaining logs from the area, PENRO will file a case against Bacquiao.
Meanwhile, BuCor will file illegal entry to its property.
“To claim the area at ibibenta nila, kapag ibinenta naman nila, lilipat naman sila at hahanap sila ng other area na gagawin na naman nila na ancestral domain. May application daw sila pero di pa na-grant, ginagalaw na nila (yong land area)
In a copy of the letter given by BuCor to Palawan News, a Bacquiao had written a letter to Aro and sub-colony superintendent Maj. Juanito dela Pena dated in advanced (October 20), claiming there are strangers going to the area to illegally cut down trees.
The letter came from the Unified Tagbanua Livelihood Association, Inc. located in Sitio Pulang Lupa, Montible with SEC Registration No. CN201803546.
Bacquiao reportedly asked Aro to bring armed personnel to stop the illegal settlers from entering the area. He said that they are not the ones who are perpetrating illegal activities.
“Dahil dito, ako kasama ang buong miyembro ng aming tribu Tagbanua ay may paggalang na humihingi ng tulong sa inyong tanggapan upang magpadala ng armadong mga tauhan upang pigilan ang pagpasok ng mga illegal settlers sa ating barangay,” he said.
Some of the woods confiscated by the team are woods 90 pieces from miscellaneous species; 133 Curayan; 31 Malabayabas; 4 pieces Bunog; and 45 pieces of Lampong.