DENR: Humanitarian reasons delay scrapping land pact with ‘Socorro cult’
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said it took them years to suspend its Protected Area Community-Based Resource Management Agreement (PACBRMA) with the Socorro Bayanihan Services Inc. (SBSI) due to “humanitarian reasons.”
DENR Regional Executive Director Nonito Tamayo admitted this before the Senate committee on finance on Wednesday.
During the hearing on the proposed 2024 budget of the DENR, Senator Risa Hontiveros asked why it took them years to suspend the protected land agreement with SBSI.
“I must admit that for humanitarian reasons, I considered that it couldn’t be recommended for cancellation, but then we wrote the letters twice in 2020 and 2021 reminding them of their obligations,” said Tamayo in a mix of English and Filipino.
DENR began investigating the concerning activities in Sitio Kapihan in 2019.
According to Tamayo, the incidents during that time — pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic, an earthquake, and tropical cyclone Odette — were the reasons why the suspension was halted.
But Hontiveros pointed out that the reported rights violations in Sitio Kapihan could have been prevented if the land agreement was immediately suspended.
“Sayang po, posible mahirap nang balikan ang nakaraan pero posible po kung umaksyon sa tamang paraan at degree nang mas timely ang regional office, baka nga po hindi gumrabe nang gumbabe ang sitwasyon doon,” said Hontiveros.
(Unfortunately, it may be difficult to go back to the past, but it is possible that if the regional office acted in the right way in a more timely manner, maybe the situation there would not have gotten worse.)
“Hindi lang kaugnay ng PACBRMA pero sabi nyo nga for humanitarian reasons hindi inaksyunan ng office niyo pero nagkaroon talaga ng humanitarian problems doon lalo na sa mga bata,” she added.
(It’s not just related to PACBRMA, but you said that for humanitarian reasons, your office did not take action, but there really were humanitarian problems there, especially with children.)
To recall, the DENR suspended its PACBRMA with alleged religious cult SBSI in September 2023.