Authorities of the Iwahig Corrections Facility (ICF) have stopped an ongoing illegal charcoal making activity near a reservation area in Sitio Pulang Lupa, Barangay Montible close to the water source of the city water district and an indigenous community settlement.
ICF Superintendent Raul Levita told Palawan News the activity was discovered by their monitoring patrol which chanced upon a group of individuals who ran away leaving their paraphernalia in the area. He said the group’s activities have already affected some 10 hectares of the property.
The group reportedly left behind items including gasoline, a bag with IDs, 2T oil, shovel, and other tools that were being used for charcoal production.
“May tinitingnan na rin kaming anggulo kung sino-sino kasi may mga nakita rin tayong gamit ng tao na nakuha, titingnan ng ating investigators kung ano pwede natin i-file,” ICF Superintendent Raul Levita said.
“Meron kaming regular monitoring na ginagawa kaya lang may nakita na parang umuusok, so pinuntahan at tumambad na ‘yong napakalaking area na wherein maraming parang factory ng uling. It is just sa likod lang ng sitio Pulang Lupa ng mga IPs,” he said adding that the area is also located near the water source of Puerto Princesa City Water District (PPCWD).
“Mga more than 10 hectares, small compared sa Luzviminda (Sta. Lucia) pero magaganda ang kapunuan dito, ang nakakatakot dito ay malapit ito sa pinagkukunan ng pinagkukunan sa water District. Itong pinapangalagaan natin para hindi maubusan ng tubig,” Levita stated.
“Titingnan din natin (kung may pananagutan ang chieftain) kasi ‘yong area ay kini-claim nila. Kung sa likod lang ng mga bahayan nila, imposible naman na hindi nila marinig ‘yong mga chainsaw at paglabas ng mga uling at kahoy galing sa loob, definitely nakikita nila,” he added referring to a group of Indigenous People (IPs) who were settled near the area. ICF estimates around 30 IP households are currently in the area.
“Ang pagkakaintindi ko ay nagkaroon ng status quo sa area na may nakitang IPs at hindi namin inaalis dahil sa kasunduhan na hihintayin namin na area will be awarded to them. Kaya lang, as part din ng monitoring namin ay huwag madagdagan so ang labas lang ang una namin nakikita. Nong huli kami nag-monitor ay may umuusok at pinuntahan ang area,” he stated further.
Levita said he also believes that the area would be taken care by the IPs residing in the area, but, they found out that the activity started during pandemic.
“Siguro ay may ilang buwan na rin itong ginagawa nila, siguro nagsimula sila nitong pandemic, kasi alam nila na hindi makakilos si BuCor nong pandemic time. Kasi iyong area ay niri-request ng IPs, ang pagkakaintindi ko ay naka-status quo and we believe na aalagaan nila ‘yong area kaya ‘pag nagmo-monitor kami ay sa labas lang,” he said.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has already conducted an inventory of affected trees and confiscated logs in charcoal production, but has not yet given a copy to Levita’s office.
Meanwhile, ICF information officer CTO II Levi Evangelista said prison management is now coordinating with government agencies such as PPCWD and DENR for collaborative monitoring and prevent a repeat of the incident.
“Kinakailangan na pangalagaan natin ang area para hindi na lumala at hindi na makalbo kasi first growth trees talaga ang mga pinutol nila at mga quality trees talaga. Like may nakita tayong Kamagong, Ipil ay ginagawa lang na uling,” Evangelista said.