Extent of damage in Bukidnon forests caused by ‘Pablo’ still unknown

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/7 February) – The extent of the damage wrought by typhoon Pablo in Bukidnon’s three mountain ranges has yet to be evaluated, tribal leaders who attended a three-day “integrated assessment on biodiversity, culture and health” that started Wednesday said.

Pablo, which hit Mindanao on December 4 last year, caused landslides and uprooted several trees in Mounts Kalatungan, Kitanglad and Pantaron, they said.

Datu Alredo Lake of Barangay Lacolac in Baungon town said a landslide occurred in their place during the typhoon.

“But we’re afraid to assess the damage on our own because the area is unstable. If it rains again, it may cause further landslide which would endanger us,” he said.

Lacolac is part of the buffer zone of Mount Kitanglad. Aside from Baungon, the mountain range covers the towns of Talakag, Libona, Manolo Fortich, Lantapan, Impasugong and Sumilao, and this city.

Bae Lourdes Ruiz of Barangay Dalwangan, Malaybalay said Pablo also uprooted several trees within their 4,000-hectare ancestral domain, about half of which covers Mount Kitanglad.

She added unidentified men had sawn and smuggled the fallen timber out of the area.

“We’re hesitant to confront them as they might be armed,” she said.

Daniel Somera, deputy protected area superintendent of Mount Kitanglad, asked the tribal leaders to help in determining the number of hectares affected by the landslides and the number of trees damaged.

Ruiz asked the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to inspect the area and prevent more logs from being smuggled out.

Landslides and uprooting of trees were reported to have occurred too in some areas of Impasugong within Mount Kitanglad.

Tribal leaders from Mounts Kalatungan and Pantaron likewise said the typhoon caused landslides and damaged trees there but they could not say how many hectares were affected.

Ruiz asked if the DENR could allow them to utilize the uprooted trees for school buildings and other structures instead of just leaving them to rot or be stolen by timber poachers.

Somera said he could not give a definite answer, as Bukidnon is still under a logging moratorium.

“Under the moratorium, even fallen trees may not be utilized without a permit,” he explained.

But Somera advised Ruiz and other tribal leaders to submit a proposal for the utilization of the fallen trees to the DENR.

He said the local communities may also seek assistance from the DENR for the rehabilitation of denuded forests in line with the government’s re-greening program.

Datu Ampuan Jeodoro Sulda of Kalatungan said that while DENR’s support is welcome, he would rather that the Lumads rely on themselves in doing forest rehabilitation.

Mounts Kalatungan and Kitanglad are protected areas inhabited mostly by Lumads or indigenous peoples.

A bill declaring Mount Pantaron a protected area was filed in the 14th Congress but it only reached first reading.

The assessment was organized by the Kitanglad Integrated NGOs and supported by the DENR, Xavier University’s McKeough Marine Center, International Union for the Conservation of Nature, Both ENDS and Wetlands International. (H. Marcos C. Mordeno/MindaNews)