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Govt moves to oust watershed squatters

BANGUED, Abra—The government has asked the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to make a new survey and establish the boundaries of the Victoria Park, a protected area in the Casamata Hills in this province, to protect it from squatters and ancestral land claimants, Gov. Eustaquio Bersamin said.

He said the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) has stated identifying landowners in the periphery of the park and traced the boundaries of municipalities claiming parts of the watershed, which was declared a national park by former president Ferdinand Marcos in 1974.

“We want to avoid disputes among municipalities and we want to prevent encroachments that will compromise the state of the watershed,” Bersamin said.

The park originally covered 87 hectares, but it has shrunk to 57 hectares because of encroachment by squatters and ancestral land claimants. Squatters use the ancestral domain claims to enter the area.

PAMB has asked the DENR to establish the boundaries so it can drive out the squatters and file charges in court against illegal claimants. It can also initiate programs to protect the watershed.

Bersamin called on other sectors in the province to report illegal logging in protected areas to ensure the abundance of fully-grown trees and to join environmental preservation efforts.

“Portions within the protected area continue to be threatened by encroachment of new claimants, who bought lots from enterprising individuals claiming ownership of parcels of land in the protected area,” he said.

Saturnina Miguel, PAMB coordinator in the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office, said they have been conducting research to validate claims in the protected area and to file charges in court against illegal occupants.

               

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