Bukidnon governor-elect vows P3 million protected area fund

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / June 11) – Bukidnon Governor-elect Alex Calingasan said he would prioritize Bukidnon’s two protected areas, Mt. Kitanglad and Mt. Kalatungan mountain ranges by increasing the provincial government’s share in park management from P1 million to “P2 million to P3million” for each area.

Calingasan, outgoing vice governor, said Mt. Kitanglad was not getting enough “so it must be increased,” although he clarified that both parks were already in better shape than the other protected areas “where local government support is practically nil”.

As of 2008, the Protected Area Management Board of the Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park received P4.55 million from eight local government units (LGUs) directly concerned, from the provincial government, from the vice governor’s office, and from the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.

The lumped share of the provincial government (P1 million), the vice governor (P700, 000), and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan environment committee (P200, 000) would reach P1.9 million or 42 percent of the total local expenditure of the provincial government.

Calingasan said he would hike the provincial government’s share from P1 million to “P2-3 million”.

But he said he would focus on massive tree planting as priority. The focus of the present Zubiri administration has been on park protection.

Sources said most of the funds the PAMB received from local government units for environmental protection go to the support for the 350-person Kitanglad Guard Volunteers (KGV) spread in buffer zone villages belonging to Malaybalay City and seven towns.

MKRNP Park Superintendent Felix Mirasol and Easterluna Canoy, head of non-government organization Kitanglad Integrated NGOs, welcomed the announcement.

The 47,270-hectare park is identified as the headwater source of the Pulangui, Tagoloan and Cagayan rivers, three of Mindanao’s most vital rivers. It is also the homeland of the Talaandig, Higa-onon and Bukidnon tribes.

The park covers the north central part of the Bukidnon plateau including eight of Bukidnon’s 22 towns and cities. The towns of Talakag, Baungon, Libona, Manolo Fortich, Sumilao, Impasugong and Lantapan and the City of Malaybalay are covered.

Calingasan vowed he will continue on the projects of the Zubiri administration but clarified that “he is his own man”. Critics accused Calingasan to be Zubiri’s pawn as he campaigned and won with the platform of continuity.

He said he believed in the projects of Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr, who would be ending his nine years in office by noon of June 30. Calingasan insisted he would complete his term amid allegations he agreed to run for governor just to resign after a month to give way to Vice Governor-elect Zubiri to keep the post.

He denied there was ever such a plan and added Zubiri has been interviewed many times earlier denying similar allegation.

Calingasan was mayor of Libona town prior to winning as Zubiri’s running mate in 2001. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)