Now it’s Mt. Apo: Illegal structures have also allegedly sprouted on PH’s highest peak

It looks like the defacement of our protected areas doesn’t end in Bohol and Masungi Georeserve.

Senator Raffy Tulfo earlier this week revealed that illegal structures have also been found on Mt. Apo in Mindanao. 

According to the Senator, business establishments have also been built on protected areas on the country’s highest peak. 

According to the Asean Centre for Biodiversity, Mt. Apo was proclaimed a National Park on May 9, 1936 and initially covered an area of 76,900 hectares.

By virtue of Republic Act 7586, which provides the legal framework for the establishment and management of protected areas in the Philippines, Mt. Apo became an initial component of the National Integrated Protected Areas System. 

Mt. Apo in Mindanao is the Philippines’ highest peak. Mt. Apo photos by
Michael Rivera from Unsplash.

Mt. Apo was finally proclaimed a Natural Park in 2003 by Congress through RA 9237, covering an area of 54,974 hectares with a buffer zone of 9,078 hectares.

In a privilege speech delivered Monday, March 18, Tulfo said he had received tips and reports of other tourist sites and protected areas that are not properly protected by the Philippine government.

It makes one wonder how many more of our prized natural wonders are under threat of unregulated human activities. 

This comes after the controversy surrounding Captain’s Peak Garden and Resort at the Chocolate Hills in Bohol, and the windmill project at the Masungi Georeserve.

Tulfo said he was “alarmed” when a mountaineering group called his attention to what was happening in Mt. Apo. 

Mt. Apo was proclaimed a Natural Park in 2003 by Congress through RA 9237.

“According to them, many resorts are also located on Mt. Apo National Reserve on the Digos side—this is said to be Twin Mountain View Resort, MonteFrio Resort, and Villa Recurso. They are already out of the buffer zone, if the basis is what we found on Google Earth and comparing it with the map of Mt. Apo,” said Tulfo as quoted in the Inquirer.

This is particularly concerning given that President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. issued a directive in October last year calling for the preservation of Mt. Apo as it vies for inclusion in the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (Unesco) list of World Heritage Sites.

Mt. Apo is vying for inclusion in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) list of World Heritage Sites.

Tulfo added: “It seems that the seats of the PAMB or Protected Area Management Board of Mt. Apo were set on fire. By November 2023, they immediately called a meeting to take action against illegal structures without permits in the Multiple Use Zones of Mt. Apo and look into decline in the forest cover.”

“But my question is, how did these illegal structures get through?” he asked.

We have the same question, Senator. 

Bohol controversy update

In an article by Leo Utdohan in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, he mentioned that government officials in Bohol gathered on Sunday, March 17, to discuss who was to blame for the construction of the structures at the Chocolate Hills.

The report said a source, who asked not to be named, mentioned that it was agreed upon during the meeting that there was a “failure of coordination between the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) and the local government of Sagbayan town,” where some illegal structures were constructed.

The famed Chocolate Hills in Bohol has been making the headlines these past weeks due to a resort built within its protected zone. Photo by Rene Padillo from Unsplash

“The focus now is how to move forward,” said the source who attended the meeting held at the house of Bohol Governor Erico Aristotle Aumentado.

Meanwhile at the Senate, Senator Cynthia Villar, chair of the Senate environment committee, has called for an investigation into the management and preservation of the country’s protected areas, according to Tina G. Santos in an article in The Philippine Daily Inquirer.

The Senator said the move is in light of “distressing” reports of the sites being defaced or exploited for tourism and commercial purposes, such as the controversial Captain’s Peak Garden and Resort at the foot of the Chocolate Hills.

Sen. Cynthia Villar filed on Tuesday, March 19, proposed Senate Resolution No. 976 to look into several protected areas spoiled by commercial activities, amid public outrage over the viral videos and photos of a swimming pool, water slides, and cottages built so close to the hills.

The resort (not in photo) sparked a huge backlash online after photos showed it sits too closely to the hills. Photo by Deb Dowd from Unsplash

The article further mentioned other areas cited in the measure, including the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape in Rizal, Siargao Island Protected Landscape and Seascape in Surigao del Norte, and Mt. Apo Natural Park in the provinces of North Cotabato and Davao del Sur, and Davao City, among others.

At present, the article stated that the Philippines has 248 protected areas, including 114 declared by law, 13 established by presidential proclamations, and 121 designated as initial components.

Associate Editor

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