The Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) is set to conduct an “in-depth” investigation into the alleged illegal wood recovery and wood-cutting activities in the Cabayugan and Tagabinet area that happened on May 7.

PENRO Felizardo Cayatoc issued a special order on May 10 for the composition of an interagency team that will conduct the investigation on May 11–13.

“The team will be composed of representatives from the PENRO Monitoring and Enforcement and Legal Section (MEL), CENRO Puerto Princesa, Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS), and the barangays involved,” he said.

The City ENRO is also tasked with assisting the fact-finding mission.

The comprehensive investigation will encompass information collection, apprehension, hauling from the source, scaling, and the transporting of illicit forest products to the DENR-CENRO site for custody and detention.

Elizabeth Maclang, superintendent of the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park (PPSRNP), welcomed the action as an opportunity to refute unjust accusations that she was involved in the case.

“Ang usaping ito ay nasa kamay na ng DENR, at kung sakali mang makakita ang DENR ng paglabag ay ihaharap natin sa batas ang lahat ng dapat managot kagaya ng lagi nating ginagawa,” she said.

She denied that PPUR staff members were caught in the act of chopping wood or cutting trees in the Cabayugan-Tagabenit area, as the individuals whose names were mentioned were on duty that day as cave guides.

Maclang stated that she would never put her work in jeopardy because of this. “Bakit ko naman sisirain ang pangalan at trabaho ko dito? Sa tagal ng serbisyo ko sa PPUR, hindi ko sisirain ang trabaho ko.” 

“Wala akong tinatawagan para makipag-areglo,” she added, explaining further that the intention of her call was to address the conflicting claims between Cabayugan and Tagabenit regarding their Certificates of Ancestral Domain Claim (CADC).

Earlier, Juan Garing of Brgy. Maoyon, a Tagbanua leader and paralegal for the indigenous peoples (IPs) in Puerto Princesa, alleged that they caught PPSRNP staff members in the act of “nagtitistis ng kahoy”, or chopping wood within Tagabenit. 

“Mali mali kasi ang facts niya (Garing). Una, naaktuhang nagtitistis, PPUR staff naaktuhang nagtitistis? Saan ang proof mo? Wala doon yong dalawang staff na sinasabi mo, lalo na si Jun Nitor. Wala doon. Si Jun at saka si Rene Boy Alla na binabanggit, wala doon, mga cave guide sila,” Maclang said.

“Meron doon sa video isang pamilya ni Edgar Barbo, pati asawa niya nandoon. Plus yong operator ng chainsaw, pero hindi daw sila nagchachainsaw noong naabutan sila. Noong dumating si kapitan (Juvylyl Bonda) at iyong Rogelio Rodrigo, nakita sila doon, pero nandoon lang sila sa may kahoy,” she said. 

Eduardo “Jun” Nitor Jr., a cave guide of the PPSRNP, also belied this claim saying that he was on duty at the time of the said apprehension. He also said that he was not in his capacity as park staff when they requested for the utilization of the fallen trees.

Despite not having DENR wood recovery consent, Nitor’s group were authorized by the CADC Cabayugan and the local barangay government to collect some fallen trees for house repair requirements and some for CADC Cabayugan community members.

The area falls under a conflicting territorial dispute between CADC claimants Cabayugan and Kayasan-Tagabinet.

Nitor said the matter is being used against Maclang, whom he claims has no involvement at all in the activity.

“Sabi nila umaareglo si ma’am Beth, hindi yun totoo. May ilang kumausap sa akin na kami ang mag-areglo basta partehan ko sila sa kahoy,” Nitor claimed.

Maclang said she is questioning Garing’s statement as he was not there at the time on May 7.

She also refuted Garing’s claim that they pursue them for trivial infractions whenever there is a public consultation, as he is from Maoyon and does not reside in any of the barangays covered by the park.

“Tsina challenge ko siya na patunayan ang akusasyon niya, dahil wala naman siya doon. Wala siya sa scenario. Reputasyon ng PPUR ang sinisira niya, hindi lang ako. Hindi totoo ang sinasabi niya na kapag may public consultation ay parang ginigipit sila. Kasinungalingan naman yan,” Maclang said.

“Taga Maoyon siya, at kaya lang siya napupunta sa mga barangay na may katutubo kasi kini claim niya, na questionable sa amin, na siya raw ay paralegal ng mga IPs ng buong city. Hindi siya residente ng mga barangay sa parke,” she added. (with a report Celeste Anna Formoso)