TAYABAS CITY?Hunters of the fabled Yamashita treasure are leaving trails of destruction in Mt. Banahaw and are frustrating efforts to rehabilitate the mystical mountain, according to a top official of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Saying the ?real treasure? is Banahaw itself, Sally Pangan, DENR protected area supervisor, appealed to the believers of the Yamashita treasure to stop their futile search. She said she had yet to hear any reports of discovery.
Legend has it that before his surrender, World War II Japanese Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita ordered the burial of treasures plundered from Asian temples in different parts of the country.
In 2004, several days before the Holy Week, the Protected Area Management Board put up barbed wires along several trails leading to the mountain?s bosom to start a five-year program to resurrect its natural resources. Three years later, the mountain showed signs of restored endemic lives.
?We appeal for the cessation of all illegal activities on Banahaw. Let us all give the mountain the chance to resurrect itself and return to its lost grandeur,? said Jay Lim, program officer of Tanggol Kalikasan-Southern Tagalog (TK-ST).
At least 22 people believed to be engaged in illegal treasure hunting were arrested on Dec. 1 by Pangan?s group, together with soldiers, police officers and TK-ST volunteers. For several days, the group had dug inside a cave in the mountain village of Lalo here but failed to find any gold or treasure.
The raiders also seized one M-16 rifle; three .45 cal. pistols, one .38 cal. revolver, assorted explosive devices and chemicals. This indicated that the group?s expedition was well-funded.
The treasure hunters, some dressed in fatigues, yielded identification cards supposedly issued by the Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) police regional special operation group, the military?s National Capital Region Command, National Bureau of Investigation and the Ombudsman.