Bontoc, Mountain Province – Mainit and Maligcong, two barangays of this municipality that were subject of news in regional newspapers alleging massive tree cutting, came out with a resolution dispelling fears that the logs were used in small-scale mines. The fears were heightened specially since the tree-cutting was done in Mt. Chomanegcheg, a disputed area between the two barangays. Instead, the two barangays declared their continuing commitment to conserve the environment and resources for the benefit future generations.
According to the officials of both barangays, photos and articles on the alleged tree cutting at the mountain gave the public a perception that massive destruction has been caused for the benefit of small scale mining activities in Mainit.
To verify the accuracy of the allegations and to clear the good name and honor of both barangays, officials and the community conducted a joint inspection and investigation resulting to the passing of a joint resolution about the issue.
In a joint resolution of the barangay officials of Mainit and Maligcong during their meeting in the presence of Bontoc Councilor Herman Farnican, the chair Committee on Environment on July 24, 2015, the officials stated that people who are currently residing in both barangays are continuing their ancestor’s legacy, since time immemorial, of responsible stewardship over respective natural resources even when pressured by corporate entities. “This is why both our barangays have tirelessly opposed the countless bids of multi – national corporations to exploit our mineral, forest, and other resources. We maintain that our resources, when we use them, are for the benefit of all the people in our respective communities, keeping in mind the heritage of our future children and not of corporate interest,” officials of both barangay stated.
In the joint inspection and investigation, there has been cutting of trees in Mount Chomanegcheg. However, barangay officials of Maligcong and Mainit said that a total of 57 pine trees have been cut and not “massive” as the photo suggested that was published in a regional newspaper.
There were allegations that the logs from the cut trees have been used in the mining operations of the Upland Mineral Resources (UMR) that has applied for small scale mining permit under the Minahang Bayan covering an area of 196,523 square meters.
Pictures of the cutting of the trees have been prominently displayed in local and regional papers and even in the social media outlets inviting negative reactions from netizens, especially the natives of Maligcong through the SACYAA organization of natives who are residing in Baguio City.
Dennis Mangatam, an elder from Maligcong and one of those who inspected the ongoing mining operation claimed that the mining is okay, not having encroached on Maligcong territory. “The problem is that trees in Chumanegcheg were cut down”, he said.
Mount Chumanegcheg is near “Farnek”, the mountain where the mining operations is located. It is within the territory of Maligcong.
A woman elder from Mainit had questioned why the pictures of cut trees were shown on TV and newspapers when the same were not used in the mines. The trees were actually to have been used for building houses and ‘agamang’, local term for rice granaries.
It was found out that tree cutting was done by several residents and descendants of Mainit and Maligcong for the construction of their family homes and granaries. Only a portion of the lumber was to be used for the small scale mining, of which a great number of Mainit residents are engaged as a source of livelihood.
The barangay officials further explained that in the Igorot practice, individuals are allowed to cut the trees planted, maintained, and protected by their forbears for their family use for optimum utilization – in the construction of family homes, rice granaries, and for livelihood as long as the cutting is not indiscriminate and not depriving relatives and family members the equal opportunity from these communal lands. They added that it is also an unwritten rule in Igorot communities that seedlings are to be planted, for the benefit of next generations, to replace trees that have been cut. “It has been determined that the cutting was not indiscriminate; it was infact carefully selective as only trees of harvestable size and age were harvested. The published photo in question shows that trees of insufficient size and age were left to grow,” stated in the joint resolution.
Officials of both barangays also clarified the contributed photo of a cut lumber interspersed with standing trees published in a regional newspaper on June 28, 2015. The photo was allegedly taken in Mount Chomanegcheg. However, upon investigation by the barangay officials, it has been found at that the photo was in Liang, Guina-ang, a neighbouring barangay and not in Mount Chomanegcheg. The lumber in the photo are to be used by Guina-ang residents for the construction of their family homes in their barangay.
It was included in the joint resolution that contrary to the information to the news published in a regional newspaper on June 21, 2015, it was the Sangguniang Pambarangay of Maligcong that requested an inspection of the small scale mining activities. In the interest of transparency, the request was immediately granted by the Sanggunang Pambarangay of Mainit and a joint inspection was conducted on June 10, 2015, almost two weeks before the local and regional media outfits released news on alleged illegal cutting, and small scale mining activities. It was determined that the small scale miners have not encroached into the territorial jurisdiction of Barangay Maligcong and are not in any way, threatening the water source and rice fields of Maligcong. Despite this, both barangays agreed to conduct annual inspection subject to request by the Sangguniang Pambarangay of Maligcong and upon mutual agreement.
As of this writing, both barangays agreed to conduct a joint tree planting at the site in question on August 8, 2015. It was agreed that 1,000 pine and Kopang seedlings shall be planted and both barangays shall exercise joint stewardship over the growth of that they will plant. This is in continuing the practice of the ancestors to replace cut trees with new seedlings for the benefit of the children and in accordance to government’s environmental programs.
Copies of the joint resolution were forwarded to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), Office of Governor Leonard G. Mayaen, Office of Bontoc Mayor Franklin C. Odsey, and other concerned agencies. // By Alpine L. Killa with reports from Roger Sacyaten