Did the ongoing road construction traversing the protected area at the Northern Negros Natural Park (NNNP) trigger the recent flashflood in several areas of northern Negros Occidental?
The flashflood claimed the lives of two persons and damaged agriculture and infrastructure and affected thousands of families.
In a petition via bataris.org.ph, the Negros Environmental Watch has called for a stop of the ongoing road construction project inside NNNP.
It said that the development project harms endemic wildlife, disrupts the ecosystem, exposes the forest to climate threats, and displaces indigenous people and communities within the area.
“We call for transparency and investigation on the approval of the project despite its violation of the General Provisions of the 2019 General Appropriations Act (GAA) Sec 27, and we call on the LGU and PAMB to firmly uphold their responsibilities towards environmental protection,” the petition said
NNNP is a protected forest area in the province of Negros Occidental, Philippines.
It is located in the northern mountainous region of Negros Island in the Visayas and is the ancestral domain of the Agta-Negrito tribe.
The NNNP is spread over five municipalities and six cities.
It is the province’s largest watershed, providing water for seventeen municipalities and cities, including the Bacolod metropolitan area.
In 1935, the park was first established as a forest reserve spanning 107,727 hectares, but was reduced to its present area of 80,454 hectares in 1946. In 2005, the protected area was converted into a natural park under the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act by virtue of Proclamation No. 895.
Continued forest and habitat degradation are prevalent, caused by unregulated extraction of forest resources, illegal tree cutting, unsustainable fuel-wood collection, illegal hunting, intensive conversion of forest into agricultural and residential land, and illegal human settlements, the petition said.
It further said that these pressures on the natural forests resulted in 2,400 hectares of forest degradation per year and a net forest loss of at least 290 hectares per year (DENR, 2015).
The NNNP is again facing another threat, the petition added.
It said that on August 27, 2020, the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) allowed the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to proceed with the road construction from the Municipality of Calatrava to Barangay Patag in Silay City which traverses the NNNP.
PAMB is composed of mayors from around the NNNP and representatives from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
The project is being undertaken by Trimluv Builders and Supply and started on June 26, 2019 with completion date set on March 20, 2020.
The contract cost is PHP125,132,966.09 with a net length of 3.701km/7.402 lane km.
The petition further said that the PAMB members are mandated to safeguard the remaining protected areas in the province, but have instead opened the floodgates to allow wealthy and powerful individuals to build illegal structures for the interests of business and their personal recreation.
All of this at the expense of the already depleted common property resource, it further said.
The petition further said that the pattern of land occupation is already evident in Barangays Patag and Lantawan in Silay City, and in Don Salvador Benedicto and other parts of the protected area wherein resorts and leisure parks are currently operating.
“We strongly condemn the decision of the PAMB – the mayors and representatives from DENR – to giving a go signal to DPWH to proceed with the road construction inside the NNNP which violates all laws governing natural park and protected area management.”
“We need to protect the last remaining forest habitat on the island of Negros. Let us stand up for the vulnerable and voiceless wildlife that is unique to our homeland. Let us unite to protect our environment, because the ones who are mandated to do so are not.” The petition has gathered more than 6,000 signatories. (Dolly Yasa via tdg, photo by tdg)