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Monday, March 4, 2024

DENR axes protected-area pact with Socorro

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The Department of Environment and Natural Resources on Friday suspended the protected area management agreement with the Socorro Bayanihan Services Incorporated (SBSI) in Surigao del Norte for gross violation of the pact.

In a news release, Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo Loyzaga said the Department will further investigate SBSI’s violation of the terms and conditions of the Protected Area Community-Based Resource Management Agreement (PACBRMA).

PACBRMA is a legal instrument between the DENR and tenured migrant groups to develop and conserve a portion of a protected area for a 25-year period.

DENR said SBSI was awarded a PACBRMA in 2004, by virtue of the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992, aimed to protect ecological processes and life support system and to preserve general diversity of an area.

The agreement covers 353 hectares of land located in the northeast part of Barangay Sering, overlooking the northeast portion of Bucas Grande Island.

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Under the provisions of the PACBRMA, SBSI was granted certain rights and privileges over the awarded area within its established Multiple-Use Zone.

Together with the DENR, SBSI developed its Community-Based Resources Management Project (CBRMP), which was affirmed in 2013.

However, in 2019, DENR began investigating alleged SBSI activities that violated the PACBRMA, including restrictions of entry in the area, the alleged establishment of checkpoints and military-like training, and establishment of structures within the PACBRMA area.

DENR said inter-governmental efforts were also made to address the concerns raised against SBSI, and to get them to comply with the terms of the agreement.

It said SBSI submitted its updated CBRMP in 2019, which the DENR disapproved due to non-compliance with certain provisions of the agreement.

Since then, SBSI has not been able to resubmit the CBRMP, it said.

In 2021 and 2022, the DENR called the attention of SBSI on the recurring violations, but did not receive any response.

DENR said it is looking at possible resettlement of the occupants and will coordinate with the Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development, provincial government and other authorities to ensure the smooth and peaceful enforcement of the suspension notice.

SBSI is being investigated for alleged child abuses, forced marriages involving minors and rape of its members, allegations denied by its officials, led by Jey Rence “Senior Agila” Quilario.

Some of the children who escaped from the group served as witnesses against SBSI.

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