House probe on agri activities in Mt. Apo eyed

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/11 April) – The extent of the encroachment of agriculture into Mount Apo that has caused forest denudation will be the subject of a congressional inquiry when the House of Representatives resumes session next month.

Cotabato 2nd district Rep. Nancy Catamco said she saw for herself the denuded areas in the Davao del Sur portion of Mount Apo during a climb over the weekend to the summit.

Catamco, chair of the House committee on indigenous peoples, said she made the trek to validate reports that a wide portion of the protected area has been planted to agricultural crops, including bananas.

Mount Apo, also an ASEAN Heritage Site, covers 54,974 hectares and includes portions of the towns of Magpet and Makilala and Kidapawan City in North Cotabato, the towns of Bansalan and Sta. Cruz and Digos City in Davao del Sur, and Davao City.

Two weeks ago, Catamco received a copy of the report of the Kidapawan-based Mount Apo Foundation Inc. (MAFI) and the Kidapawan-Magpet-Makilala (KMM) eco-tourism triangle’s tourism group about the situation in the country’s highest peak.

The report said the forest cover of the mountain was deteriorating and the encroachment into the natural park was already alarming.

During the meeting on March 19, MAFI executive director Ermelo Libre told Catamco that the situation in Mount Apo needed serious political intervention saying many of the environment laws protecting the mountain appeared to have been violated.

Catamco, an Eba or princess of the Bagobo tribe, assured she would preserve and protect the mountain ‘from all harm’, not only as a habitat of many endangered species but also as a territory of Lumads or indigenous peoples.

The Lumads consider Mount Apo a sacred ground and a source of their life. (Malu Cadelina Manar/MindaNews)