Negros Occidental gov OK to legalization of structures in Northern Negros Park
BACOLOD CITY –– Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson has welcomed the legalization of structures in the Northern Negros Natural Park in Salvador Benedicto town.
“Along the road, I think we should allow business to prosper in Salvador Benedicto,” he said in an interview.
Lacson said the national government has invested a lot on the highway, and it is but proper to have economic activities in the area.
He, however, clarified that businesses should be allowed only along the road and not at the thick forest of the Northern Negros Natural Park.
Environment Undersecretary Jim Sampulna, who was in Bacolod City on Tuesday, said property owners could apply for a Special Agreement in Protected Areas (SAPA) to legalize their stay there.
“We will legalize their stay there. We can’t do anything. The structures were already cemented,” he said.
“The structures per se, are illegal because they are at the natural park. But they can apply for SAPA,” he added
The national highway from the town proper of Salvador Benedicto going to Barangay Bunga is part of the Northern Negros Natural Park which has been identified as a multiple-use zone.
But Randy James Rojo of the Group of Environmental Socialists said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has no authority to approve a SAPA—a power which belongs to Congress.
“It is our humble position that these SAPAs and MOAs are illegal schemes and devices designed by corrupt DENR officials to circumvent the NIPAS (National Integrated Protected Areas System) Act,” he said.
“Allowing these powerful personalities to avail of SAPAs will open the floodgates to more environmental violations in the Northern Negros Natural Park, thus continuously endangering the lives of the inhabitants of Negros province and destroying the biggest watershed system,” Rojo added.
He said if DENR officials pursue such a plan, environmentalists shall be constrained to prosecute the agency “to the fullest extent of the law.”/lzb
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