The problem of illegal sale and lease of forestlands surfaced during the en banc meeting of the Protected Area Management Board of Mt. Kitanglad Range on Thursday. A report prepared by Lantapan Mayor Godofredo Balansag, a PAMB member, said that this
activity is becoming rampant in barangay Dahilayan in Manolo Fortich, in barangay Capehan in Libona and in neighboring areas as well. He warned that if this practice remains unchecked it might also happen inside the protected area portions of which belong to these barangays.
Problems of this kind have occurred in Mt. Kitanglad. In Baungon town, for instance, at least 200 hectares in Maecate Area were sold by one Florito Ubod to a military official in Cagayan de Oro City, according to an informant whose name I chose not to reveal here fo
his own safety. A few years back, then Baungon mayor Rogelio Lago identified Mr. Ubod as the same person who sold several hectares of forestlands to buyers from the same city.
Mr. Ubod convinced the buyers he was the legitimate owner of the lands through a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title bearing the supposed signatures of the original commissioners of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples. The authenticity of the document has not been verified, although the NCIP provincial office said they had never received a formal CADT application from him.
But the immediate concern is for the DENR to act decisively on the illegal sale and lease of forestlands. PAMB members complained that instead of supporting their recommendation to local governments to pass ordinances prohibiting this illegal practice,
the CENRO in Talakag which covers the affected areas argued the management of timberland falls under its jurisdiction. Mayor Balansag’s report said this happened during a public hearing in Capehan on February 26. In another hearing conducted by the
environment committee of the Manolo Fortich municipal council a committee member also declared that the PAMB has no authority over timberlands.
CENRO-Talakag and that committee member got the message wrong. The PAMB was not saying it wanted to interfere in the management of timberlands outside of Mt. Kitanglad. It merely asked the local government units to help stop the illegal practice of selling and leasing out of forestlands to prevent it from spreading to the protected area. The central issue is forest protection not the management of forestlands.
It seems CENRO-Talakag is wary of the PAMB’s motives. It betrayed jealousy in maintaining its management authority over timberlands outside of Mt. Kitanglad.
Yet it appeared to be undisturbed by the looming destruction of these lands. It has not done anything concrete to solve this problem like identifying the vendors and buyers and charging them in court.
In fact, there is no need for local governments to pass an ordinance banning these activities. Nonetheless, the PAMB’s request for an ordinance should have been a wakeup call for the DENR. The law is clear that timberlands cannot be sold or leased. Hence the DENR in general and the CENRO-Talakag in particular should have acted with dispatch, that is, if it still views forest protection as part of its task.
Attention Regional Executive Director Maximo Dichoso and PENRO Agustilo Obsioma, your personnel in Talakag seem to be sleeping on their job. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno received in 1987 the Jose W. Diokno Award for winning in a national editorial writing contest sponsored by Ang Pahayagang Malaya and the family of the late senator.)