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Bantay Bukid volunteers rue slow action on threats, issues

Around 200 Bantay Bukid volunteers of the highlands and watershed areas under the conservation zone of the city expressed their dismay on the slow action of the government on reports of violations and threats to their lives.
In yesterday’s Panagtagbo, a gathering of the volunteers and other stakeholders at Davao City Recreation Center, about 200 Bantay Bukid volunteers said that intruders from Digos, Toril, and Bankerohan already encroached on the 200-hectare protected area of Sitio Tabak, Tribal, and Klatum of Barangay Carmen, Baguio District.
“They did not ask permission from my barangay in selling the land, which is not allowed also because it is under a watershed conservation area,” said Carmen Barangay Captain Alfredo Austral Sr.
According to Austral, illegal settling and other illegal activities in the protected areas have been going on for about 20 years already. However, despite the consistent report on the situation, there has been no progress of the case yet.
“We already asked the help of the LGU on this. I also advised the volunteers to be careful because they are strong in numbers,” said Austral.
“Actually, there was a case filed relative to this already against the initiator of the selling of land. However, the perpetrator was able to bail. Now, they are back with their illegal business,” he added.
According to Austrual, there are 23 Bantay Bukid volunteers in the barangay but they could not do much because the number of the illegal settlers intimidate them. He even added that a former barangay captain and some other datus back the settlers and continue to sell protected land areas to others.
“We even have photos of them doing slash-and-burn and cutting of trees. The volunteers tried to stop them but they could not do much because they are also threatened with the numbers of the intruders,” Austral said.
“Our major problem is the slow action taken when we report incidents like this. The volunteers are really hapless,” he added.
Meanwhile, Interface Development Interventions (IDIS), an environmental advocate, also called for the action to the incidents.
“One of the most serious issues is on Barangay Tapak, Paquibato District and in Barangay Carmen, Baguio District. The Bantay Bukid has already done their task on the monitoring. The job is now on the government agencies concerned on the issues reported by Bantay Bukid. They are disappointed with the slow actions,” IDIS executive director Chinkie Golle told reporters.
“I understand that is a painful sight for the volunteers that the area they take care is now illegally rehabilitated and sold. The government agencies should really investigate on that,” she added.

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