DENR looks hell-bent on destroying nature

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

In May 2007 a Korean erected a resort-spa atop Taal Volcano, Batangas. The six-hectare excavation shocked Taal lakeshore residents and tourists. Unnatural, unsightly, unsafe. Unlawful too since national and local governments should ban public constructions during elections. Taal Volcano-island is a protected landscape.

Governor-elect Vilma Santos tried to halt the bulldozing. But the alien brandished an environment compliance certificate. Why the Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources granted the EEC – and for how much bribe – was anybody’s guess. Only five years and two DENR secretaries later was the Korean’s adjoining floating restaurant padlocked.

Three years earlier, November 2004, mudslides and timber toppled concrete houses and shops in three mountainside towns in Quezon. DENR had allowed the illegal logging that killed 1,068 and maimed 1,061 residents; 500 were never found.

In 2013 DENR licensed three Chinese to extract nickel ore in two Zambales towns. Supposedly only small-scale miners used picks and shovels, when in truth 3,000 bulldozers and dump trucks leveled the mountains. With the reddish rocks, China illegally landfilled as airstrips three West Philippine Sea reefs.

In 2015 DENR twice awarded a nickel mine in Surigao that the Supreme Court had shut down seven years prior for forest encroachment.

In September 2023 a Senate inquiry exposed a religious cult in a Surigao mountaintop watershed. DENR had allowed the trespass into the protected area. The cult fenced off and built dormitories, canteens, chapels and guardhouses in 353 hectares.

Comes now another environment stunner. Advertised online is a multi-swimming pool resort in the middle of three of Bohol’s 1,776 famed Chocolate Hills. Netizens want to know why DENR allowed concrete cottages and other permanent structures seven months ago.

In the wake of public outrage, DENR orders an investigation by its provincial office – the very unit that permitted many other private picnic resorts. Chocolate Hills is one of the Philippines’ six National Geological Monuments. Consisting of corals pushed up from shallow sea two million years ago, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Nowhere else does DENR look more hell-bent in ruining nature than in Rizal province. Specifically the Upper Marikina River Watershed.

There, DENR central and field officers are doing everything they can to evict volunteer re-foresters and ancestral domain protectors.

Abetted instead are rock quarriers, 30 landgrab syndicates, 24 swimming pool resorts with no business permits, and scores of illegal woodcutters. Untouchable is a police general who has built a mansion there. Same with politicos whose armed goons maul and menace environment activists.

Result: forest denudation in the hilltops of Baras, Tanay, San Mateo and Antipolo towns; diversion of rivers into private swimming pools; deadly floods and mudslides in Marikina, Cainta, Pasig, San Juan and Quezon cities below.

Masungi Georeserve Foundation park rangers discovered worse recently. Turbines and concrete platforms for a wind powerplant are being erected right beside 60-million-year-old limestone karsts. The National Museum extols the limestone formations as a natural relic. Scientists worldwide deem wind turbines as harmful to birds and bats.

DENR central and provincial officers justified the licensing of Singaporean Vena Energy Ltd.’s operation. What it purportedly certified is a multi-use segment of the protected area.

DENR needs educating. A watershed consists of the mountain forest cover; up-, mid-, and downstream river flows; all the way to the sea or lake, in this case Laguna de Bay. Marikina Watershed is off limits to industrial-commercial use.

Last week DENR launched in Rizal a supposed “whole of society approach” to protect the watershed. In attendance were Rizal congressmen, provincial and municipal officials. Uninvited were Masungi Foundation trustees, Dumagat tribe leaders, earth scientists and reps of 30 environment NGOs.

DENR Sec. Maria Antonia Yulo Loyzaga gushed over the launch of Project TRANSFORM (Transdisciplinary Approach for Resilience and Environmental Sustainability through Multistakeholder Engagement).

“Greenwashing!” NGO leaders sneered. Greenwashing is an act or practice of making a product, policy or activity appear to be more environmentally friendly or less damaging than it really is.

Photographed with Yulo was Angelita Iñiguez Lee, owner of two quarries inside the watershed: Rapid City and Quarry Rock.

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March 17, 2024 marks the 67th anniversary of a national tragedy: the plane crash that killed President Ramon Magsaysay and entourage. It’s also the second lease on life of the lone survivor, newsman Nestor Mata.

To be relaunched on Monday, March 18, is Mata’s account of the fatal crash, “One Came Back: The Magsaysay Tragedy,” co-authored with Vicente Villafranca.

Magsaysay and Mata descendants will attend the 2 p.m. event at the University of Santo Tomas Miguel de Benavides Library.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8 to 10 a.m., dwIZ (882-AM).

Follow me on Facebook: https://tinyurl.com/Jarius-Bondoc

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