Press Release
October 4, 2023

04 October 2023

SENATOR RISA HONTIVEROS (SRH): On the Cancellation of the Socorro Bayanihan Services, Inc's or SBSI Protected Area-Community Based Resource Management (PACBRMA) , so, last week the DENR cancelled the PACBRMA of the Socorro Bayanihan Services, Inc., or Bayanihan. I understand that DENR started investigating the violations of the agreement as early as 2019. It denied Bayanihan's Community-Based Resource Management Plan in 2019 for violations related to checkpoints and military-style training of its security. So even then, can you please confirm thi madam secretary?

Sec. Toni Yulo-Loyzaga: I wish to just clarify that what the DENR has issued was suspension of PCBRMA pending on our investigation now on the violations that were identified given the specific document that i have shared with you at this point yes indeed in the report, there were already observations and findings previously and I will turn over then the Undersecretary for Field Operations Mindanao for the clear recounting of chronology kiust to update the body, we had personally served yesterday evening at the site of the Kapihan the suspension it is also served by registered mail so as of yesterday they have received the suspension order in person and just to update, we are now in coordination with Secretary Benhur Abalos, Secretary Remulla of the DOJ, and Secretary Rex Gatchalian for an integrated approach to the investigations regarding this particular situation so there will be a meeting tomorrow between the secretaries, Secretary Benhur will however be in Basilan but he will be represented by an undersecretary and by the PNP representative. If I may, I'll turn over to Undersecretary Fragada for the chronology.

SRH: Thank you, secretary, before the Usec speaks also salamat din po sa pagsabi nyo na kayo nina Sec Remulla, Abalos at Gatchalian ay gagawa at hahanap ng integrated approach and that's also one of my follow up questions later.

Usec. Joselin Marcus Fragada: Good morning, Madam Chair, Your honor, we have a short chronology of events that we've submitted to your honor regarding the ongoings for the past year. As you mentioned, it is correct, in 2019, there was an investigation done actually buy then Secretary Roy Cimatu with the DILG Secretary Ed Ano and visited this area due to the pressing issues regarding SBSI, namely restrictions in the entry of farmer non-member with farm lot situated within the PACBRMA are, number 2, alleged establishment of the checkpoint and military training within the PACBRMA, number 3 resignation of teachers, men in uniform and elected barangay officials and number 4 establishment of structures within the PACBRMA area.

As early as 2019, there was an investigation done already regarding certain issues, in the part of the DENR, the PACBRMA is a tenurial instrument that we give to tenured migrants in protected areas, mosty to give them a chance of livelihood, that's the main intention, under that PCBRAMA agreement there was no condition there that you can live in the area unless you're a tenured migrant and it is proven that we have a list of registered tenured migrants in the specific area where the PACBRMA is. These all happened in 2019. The last action of SBSI that the DENR required them to have was a CBRMP, that's a community-based resources management plan. There were able to submit it for 2019-2023 but it was not adopted, so the DENR told them to revise until such time, 2021 and 2022 , our regional office continually reminded them of updating the CBRMP the plan for this area. Until it reached 2023, as mentioned by the good secretary we did issue the suspension letter. We suspended the actual privileges and rights of a PACBRMA holder. we already created an investigation team on the regional level. and as mentioned also. we're trying to pursue an inter-agency approach cause one of the problem you foresee in case of violations are found, and there are grounds for termination. Problem such as resettlement for the people in the area.

SRH: Thank you so much Usec. binanggit nyo nga na tenurial instrument ito pero walang condition na you can live there unless certain conditions are met, and inf act may higit 3000 tao na nakatira na po doon including more than 1000 children hindi pa nga natin naitatanong ano ba ang carrying capacity ng area na yun salamat at binanggit nyo rin ang usapan ng livelihood bahagi yun nagpakete PACBRMA and that's also related to one of my follow up question. Usec bago ko dumako doon sa issue ng resettlement na binaggit nyo na po, I understand there was a substantial clearance of the forest, bahagi po ba ito ng findings ng investigation before or now?

Usec. Fragada: Actually that's one of the things the investigative team would like to look at. Cause it's very essential for us like I mentioned that it's only the agreement is truly for creation of jobs through planting through harvesting of certain portions so there's a declared CBP. They have a community-based plan wherein it's identified which area they can harvest and they can plant on even the species are identified, bamboo rattan, there are certain species that are utilized that's all part of the community-based resource management plan

SRH: But I would guess po na yung sinasabing substantial clearance, hindi po yan contemplated sa isang PACBRMA.

Usec. Fragada: Yes, your honor.

SRH: Salamat. Maybe as a follow up as we're looking at these photos, Usec, Madam chair at bago tayo dumako doon sa importanteng usapin ng resettlement, why did it take four years? I mean a long time to suspend the PACBRMA of SBSI?

Usec. Fragada: If it's okay, I have the Regional Director of Region 13, which is more familiar with the territory and very familiar with the ongoings of the area.

SRH: Doon lang po sa puntong iyon, bakit tumagal ng apat na taon kahit may nadidiskubre na pong violations bago masuspendi po ang PACBRMA ng SBSI.

Director Nonito Tamayo: Yun pong simula as pending out of this activities, yun pong mga taon na 2019 so that was during the pandemic, and then there was the earthquake and then Odette, while we've been doing our monitoring in the areas, i must admit that for humanitarian reasons, naconsider ko po yun na hindi marecommend for cancellation but then we wrote the letters twice in 2020 and 2021 reminding them of their obligations.

SRH: Yun pong tatlong dahilan na binanggit nyo pandemic. earthquake, ano po yung pangatlo?

Dir. Tamayo: Odette po

SRH: Ah so typhoon Odette po, Siguro naman kahit noong pandemic, gumagana pa rin ang gobyerno natin, pati po yung mga department pati po yung mga regional offices, yung nabanggit nyo pong earthquake, actually ayon sa aming pananaliksik, yun pa ang ginamit na dahilan o excuse para hikayatin noong pinaka leader ng SBSI yung libu-libong mga taong umakyat doon sa kapihan then typhoon Odette diumano at ito po ay iniimbestigahan ng DSWD pati po yung disaster at ayuda kinaltasan pa po ng lider ng SBSI. Sayang po, posible mahirap nang balikan ang nakaraan pero posible po kung umaksyon sa tamang paraan at degree ng mas timely ang regional office baka nga po hindi gumrabe nang gumbabe ang sitwasyon doon. Hindi lang kaugnay ng PACBRMA pero sabi nyo nga for humanitarian reasons hindi inaksyunan ng office nyo pero nagkaroon talaga ng humanitarian problems doon lalo na sa mga bata na amin pong kasalukuyang iniimbestiga ni Chair Doroy Dela Rosa. Gusto ko lang pong i-make of record po yun para ma-note din po sana ng regional office kasi ilan pa kayang PACBRMA sa ating bansa kung nangangailangan ng aksyon ng regional offices nangangailangan ito in timely fashion at hindi na aabot ng apat na taon at pa-grabe na pa-grabe na ang sitwasyon.

SRH: With the suspension, ano pong mangyayari doon sa 3,5000 people na nakatira sa area lalo na po yung mga kababaihan at bata saan po sila ilolocate o irerelocate?

Sec. Yul0-Loyzaga: Thank you. At this moment and that's precisely the intention of our meeting tomorrow, to provide an integrated approach that involves the protection of the most vulnerable, in our conversation with Secretary Rex Gatchalian he also cited in fact the concerns and so we will be actually having the design of integrated approach. In fact as of the suspension there will no movement at this time the investigation is ongoing and if I may just share the SBSI is not only PACBRMA in the area there are several. We are going to be looking at these other PACBRMAs as well because we would like to attribute what we are seeing via satellite imagery in terms of increase of roof structures that can be observed in the satellite imagery over time. If we will be allowed after the showing of the pictures, we would like to show a very quick just analysis of publicly-available data from google earth we have not done a very in depth analysis as of this date. However, what we see remotely from the satellite will have to be ground rooted and that will be done by those who are located and sent there to be able to determine the presence of settlement and homeowners.

SRH: Kanina we were talking about SAPAs vis-a-vis PACBRMA, i understand SAPAs are for large projects for example, kaliwa dam, another controversial project, Wawa dam etc. whereas PACBRMA are people's tenurial agreements with residents already there. And last follow up point, for additional PACBRMA's mentioned by the secretary include Bukas Grande, 389 hectares nasa amin pong research tungkol sa SBSI related entity po yan so baka SBSI has 353 hectares PACBRMA under its name, pero baka may sister company or entity, Bukas Grande na 389 hectares so more than 700 has under SBSI. Mabalik lang po doon sa PaCBRMA sa SBSI, I appreciate na sinabi nyo right now walang movement habang pinuput together nyo mga secretaries ang integrated approach just to bring to your attention ito kinatutuwa ng mga batang tumakas, nagtestigo sa aming hearing ni Chair Dela Rosa at nga mga magulang nila, may ilang mga bumababa na rin, and naghahanda na sila Mayor Riza Timcang na salubungin sila at humihingi na rin ng tulong sa pagreestablish sa kanila doon sa area dahil ang ivba sa kanila ipilit ng kanilang mga lider ibenta yung mga bahay lupa wala nang mabalikan at syempre yung iba concerned ano na ang magiging hanapbuhay nila. Has the department included the cost of resettling them in the 2024 budget?

Sec. Yulo-Loyzaga: Unfortunately that is beyond our mandate in terms of calculating the resettlement cost of this particular community. Our first call would be for Secretary Rex Gatchalian the DSWD to help us also establish the census and finally bring in the housing and settlement sources po.

SRH: Thank you, Secretary. Tutulong na rin po ako kasi at kung si Chair iniisponsor ang budget ng DENR, ako naman p osa DHSUD so pwede po naming pagtulungang i-coordinate dion kay Sec Acuzar.

Kaugnay ng environmental compliance review. In the Sept 27 hearing, the good Secretary committed to undertake an environmental compliance review and cumulative impact assessment (CIA) of reclamation projects with the results coming in in 6 to 12 months from now. Maari po bang malaman kung itong review ay magiging nationwide gaya nung pinanukala sa resolusyon ko.

Sec. Toni: It's our view that in fact reclamation is a nationwide challenge and opportunity if that may be expressed at this point. It's our view that for the development of a sound policy that is evidence-informed, this review of compliance will need to be nationwide.

SRH: Salamat para doon, Secretary, Madame Chair. Lalo na dahil archipelago tayo eh yung nagiisa nga lang reclamation project may impact on more than one LGU, more than one ecosystem. Salamat na nationwide ang cinocontemplate niyong review. Ito bang nationwide review icocover lamang yung mga inaprubahan ng PRA na may ECCs o kasama po ba yung ongoing kung saan may ginastos nang mga public funds pero hindi kumpleto yung dokumento.

Halimbawa, walang ECC or otherwise unauthorized.

Toni: This will be the approach initially, Madame Chair. Everything that comes down to us from the PRA would be the subject of the review.

SRH: At kung naman sakaling may mga i-bring sa attention ng department ng ibang stakeholders, beyond PRA, yung itong ibang mga characteristics, bukas po ba ang DENR sakupin sa nationwide review?

Sec. Toni: Absolutely Madame Chair, your Honor.

SRH: I love hearing that word absolutely sa ganitong klaseng mga sagot. Just saying po, Madame Chair. At ano po ang intensyong gawin ng DENR sa mga makikita ninyong unauthorized reclamations?

Sec. Toni: Madame Chair, I'm going to turnover to Undersecretary Leones here for the process. However, we do realize that locally there may be instances where some reclamation has been undertaken that would have been part of local projects and therefore would not necessarily have been submitted to the process that PRA has and so this is an issue that would have to be specifically addressed on a local basis, with the particular LGU.

SRH: I think another example that came out in that previous hearing na si Chair din yung nag-chair ay yung Coron. Thank you, Sec. Yes, Usec, Madame Chair.

Usec. Leones: Based on our existing regulation, Madame Senator, our jurisdiction really is for the issuance of the ECC so based on this requirements, if the DENR will determine that such undertakings being done without the necessary permits, we are usually can issue cease and desist order. We can issue penalties. And we can coordinate with the local government to request them to help us or assist us in ordering the cessation of that undertaking, Madame Senator.


SRH: Before I continue with my questions, this is the second time I've heard in the hearing, the DENR confirming that Manila Bay itself is an historically important area. Siyempre diba sight of the fake battle of Manila Bay which led to the Treaty of Paris, and kanina po, we were just talking about it off mic but si Sen. JV has an important observation about the suspension as ordered by the President of the reclamation projects of Manila Bay and yet if Sen. JV would like to make it of record.

Sen. JV: I would just like to get an update kung suspended ba talaga lahat ng operation ng reclamation because I bike here almost everyday and I can see that there's movement. And even Sen. Binay whose office talagang view na yun, talagang napansin din niya. So can we have an update?

Sen. Binay: Just to add doon sa comments ni Sen. Risa and Sen JV, yung table ko ho, ang view ko yung ongoing reclamation and I've noticed lately parang may movement pa din, may mga gumagalaw. So I don't know kung kasama siya doon sa suspended.

Sec. Toni: We don't have direct information. They are suspended. If there is movement, what has been allowed was really to mitigate the dispersion of the sand inorder for it not to be flying into the internal areas and the coastal areas. If I may, your Honor, we will look directly into this. But there have been instances wherein there were complaints by the LGU and some constituents that the sand has been dispersing inward and therefore we have suggested to the proponents, including the LGU proponents, that they take the mitigating measures in order to prevent or minimize this po. So if there are specific observations, we would very much welcome any movement, observations and we would definitely check on these po by going onsite. Just to also inform, we have people actually inspecting, dynamically and periodically, to see whether in fact there is movement. But any observation po would be most welcome.

SRH: Since the review will be nationwide, sapat pong panahon matatapos niyo rin po within 6 to 12 months. Or gaanong kahabang panahon ang kakailanganin?

Sec. Toni: The 6-12 months really pertains to our Manila Bay. The cumulative impact assessment is a very complex undertaking and will require institutional support on the ground as well. We happen to have some resources for this engagement in the Manila Bay situation, however, for the rest, and we're doing this now regionally, we will have to organize the scientific teams that will actually undertake each of the impact assessments. And I have to admit this will take some time.

SRH: How much time, Sec? Ilang buwan o taon?

Sec. Toni: Right now we are finalizing the documentation for the teams that will do Manila Bay and as that comes together and we hope this would be within the next week to 10 days for this particular situation. We will move on to the other areas, principally, these are areas where large scale urban development is taking place already and where infrastructure is deemed to be needed in order to support that by way of a port facility or other types of commercial or institutional requirements. So we're concentrating on those areas where highly urbanized cities actually are interested in these types of activities.

SRH: Pero sabi niyo po moving forward. So mauuna po yung review, assessment sa Manila Bay and then susunod pa yung iba? Hindi po ba pwedeng simultaneous like simultaneous teams?

Sec. Toni: We can try that, Madame Chair. However, realistically, it's an issue of budgets, it's an issue of the team formation, and we do have to do a regulatory review of what actually has been issued there. So the compliance review is just one element. The impact assessment is the second. This is the one that will take the longest time and so it's a matter of having to organize these two activities and yes we can do it simultaneously but we will need the resources and the manpower to actually do it.

SRH: Baka Sec. moving forward, from this budget season to the next, pwede niyo pong i-advise ang Senate through our Committee, through our Chair, na year on year, para multi-year allotment kung ano po yung kakailanganin. For example the first stage is compliance.. and then second yung cumulative impact assessment. So halimbawa po if the Manila Bay compliance is going on. At pagpasok niya don sa CIA, baka pwede na niyang simulan ang compliance activities sa second batch, so on and so forth, parang round song but please do advise Senate ano yung kakailanganin niyong resources to keep that process going, which if ideally if we can mobilize resources for that, matatapos po yung pati cumulative impact assessment for the nationwide reclamation projects within 3-4 years, or less?

Sec. Toni: Realistically, I would say a minimum of 3 years. But it take longer, depending on.. We can submit a work program for this purpose and hopefully with the support of the legislature we can get this resource.

SRH: Madame Chair, I need to move to the DILG hearing but I'll just make of record my remaining questions. If I can just submit them to the Chair and request the DENR's response in writing before the plenary. Mga tanong po tungkol sa pagmimina sa Gutalak, Zamboanga del Norte. Tungkol po sa sanitary landfill sa Calamba city sa Laguna. Tungkol po sa Sibuyan Mining at saka yung Mindoro Oil Spill. At ito pinag usapan namin on the side yung pag interpellate ni Minority Leader Sen. Koko Pimentel I think it was the PENCAS Bill, yung paghihiwalay na ng business and resource development side mula sa environmental protection side ng DENR, so institutionally. I'll just hope for the responses of the good Secretary of the Department, in writing.

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