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Regional directors, representatives of the government agencies, and some private stakeholders together with Butuan City Mayor Ferdinand Amante, Jr. and other officials witness the inauguration of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Caraga’s new Science and Technology Center, as well as the groundbreaking of its Metrology Laboratory at the Caraga State University (CSU) Campus, Barangay Ampayon, Butuan City headed by Regional Director Lyndo Villacorta. (PIA-Caraga)

PIA Press Release
Saturday, January 07, 2012

Movement to “Save Mt. Hilong-Hilong” snowballs

by Noel B. Najarro

BUTUAN CITY, Jan. 7 (PIA) -- A movement is snowballing here in the region pushing “Save Mt. Hilong-Hilong” mountain range.

The “Save Mt. Hilong-Hilong,” movement kicks-off with a mini-symposium culminating with a signature drive to the movement’s declaration of concern, held recently at the lobby of Father Saturnino Urios University (FSUU) organized by the Ivory Charities Foundation, Inc., in line with its advocacy to save Mt. Hilong-Hilong, its thick jungle forest cover, its bio-diversity, its pristine rivers, falls and springs and its significance to environment.

Part of the mini-symposium was the reading of “Why Save Mt. Hilong-Hilong Range” by Atty. Vince Fortun, a member of the Save Mt. Hilong-Hilong Committee. The participants also viewed the “Mt. Hilong-Hilong Primer” by Forester Benjie T. Lasam, another committee member.

It was followed by the reading of the “Declaration of Concern” and a message from an “Indian Chief Seattle of the Suquamish Tribe” by two ICF members.

The “Piso sa HX2” was also launched as presented by Engr. Abraham T. Montilla, another member of the committee. Every concerned individual who wanted to support the movement will drop at least a P1.00 in a marked box.

The “Agusan Association of America”, “Agusan Association of Texas”, “Butuan Global Foundation, Inc.” and BBY2K10 signified their whole-hearted support for the movement.

Butuan City Mayor Ferdinand M. Amante, Jr. and Vice-Mayor Lawrence Fortun signified the city local government’s support for the movement by their presence and by signing the movement’s declaration. Mr. Jaime G. Ubanos, Chief, Protected Areas and Wildlife Division, DENR Caraga, also represented his department during the activity. Each official gave their appropriate messages for the occasion.

Mt. Hilong-Hilong rising at 6,601.37 feet above sea level, considered the highest peak in Northeastern Mindanao can be located at the Diwata Range near the boundaries of Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur and Surigao del Sur provinces.

The movement pointed out in their “Declaration of Concern” that the range “forms a natural barrier” shielding Butuan City and Agusan del Norte “from the fierce pacific winds during typhoons.” They also claimed that Mt. Hilong-Hilong is “truly…one huge living natural lung, so vital today when the world’s environment and our very survival are threatened by carbon emissions and global warming.”

The movement calls for the preservation and the protection of the mountain range from exploitation. They are at the same time pushing for the absolute prohibition of mining, logging, quarrying, sale or export of its resources and dumping of solid or liquid waste and slash-and-burn way (kaingin) of farming. They are calling also for the conservation of the land and everything underneath it, flowing on it, growing on it, living off it, or exuding from it. They insist that there shall be no development or construction, except if done for responsible and restricted tourism and recreation facilities.

The movement also pointed out what they considered a serious threat to their present cause, was that even though there are two bills in the house of congress, where each bill accordingly “on the surface appears intended to protect Hilong-Hilong range by declaring it as a protected area,” they claimed however that succeeding provisions of the very the same bills clearly do not protect the mountain. They asserted that the bills “inexplicably allows mining, logging, quarrying, sale and export of flora, fauna and other resources, and even dumping of toxic chemicals, upon authorization by a local management board.

They also pointed out that the composition of the local board is “overwhelmingly dominated by local politicians and local public officials. The house bill accordingly provides also the representation of the two congressmen in the board. The DENR accordingly, whose budget will provide for all expenditures is represented by only one, the Regional Director as chair of the board. The academe has only one representation and there will be three from the NGOs.

The private sector accordingly, is markedly under represented even as they are the stakeholders who will suffer the ill effects of environmental degradation.

They are calling for the withdrawal of the two bills in congress and substitute the same with a more environment friendly legislation or a Presidential Proclamation and that a public hearing be held in Butuan City for the purpose. (PIA-Caraga)

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