TERMINATED. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga (center) announces during a press conference at the DENR central office in Quezon City on Monday (April 8, 2024) the cancellation of the Protected Area Community-Based Resource Management Agreement with Socorro Bayanihan Services Inc. in Surigao del Norte. The supposed 25-year agreement, awarded in 2004, was canceled due to various violations, like establishment of illegal structures, roads and settlement area; and non-filing/submission of monthly, quarterly or annual reports in relation to the implementation of the Community Resource Management Plan. (PNA photo by Robert Oswald P. Alfiler) 

MANILA – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has canceled its agreement with the Socorro Bayanihan Services Incorporated (SBSI) for violating the provisions of the tenurial instrument awarded in June 2004 covering 353 hectares in the Siargao Island Protected Landscape and Seascape (SIPLAS) in Surigao del Norte.

The DENR said among the violations are the establishment of settlement/residence in the Protected Area Community-Based Resource Management Agreement (PACBRMA) area, putting up checkpoints strictly regulating the entry of non-members, failure to submit the required reports about the implementation of its Community-based Resource Management Plan (CRMP), and establishment of infrastructure.

In a news release on Monday, the DENR said it has been working with the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the provincial government since the suspension of the PACBRMA in September 2023.

Currently, the collaborative team is working on the reintegration and resettlement of affected occupants. A total of 404 households of tenured migrants in the PACBRMA area will be relocated.

PACBRMA is an agreement entered into by and between the DENR and organized tenured migrant communities or interested indigenous peoples in protected areas and buffer zones which has a term of 25 years and renewable for another 25 years.

Following the approved CRMP for 2010-2014, the DENR awarded SBSI an initial 122 hectares within its PACBRMA area in 2010 to develop the site for agroforestry and assisted natural regeneration.

This was followed by an additional 69 hectares for indigenous tree plantation in 2011.

As early as August 2019, a monitoring and investigation team of the DENR confirmed the establishment of houses and other residential structures that were prohibited in the CRMP.

After repeated advice to SBSI to secure permits for the structures not covered by CRMP in the same month, and subsequently on June 2021, December 2022, and September 2023, DENR Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga issued a Letter of Suspension SBSI on Sept. 29, 2023 as the latter introduced improvements and structures in the area that are not under the Protected Area Management Plan (PAMP) and without the required endorsement from the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB).

Under Republic Act No. 7586 or National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992 and Executive Order No. 263 or Adopting Community-Based Forest Management as the National Strategy to Ensure the Sustainable Development of the Country’s Forestlands Resources and Providing Mechanisms for its Implementation, the DENR is mandated to promote the conservation of biodiversity and sustainable development in protected areas and buffer zones to maintain essential ecological processes and life support systems which will enhance people’s capacity to sustain human life and development, as well as plants and animals.

Towards this end, the DENR provides tenured migrant communities and interested indigenous peoples within protected areas and buffer zones, provided that the activities to be undertaken are consistent with the PAMP.

Aside from the violations of SBSI on the issued PACBRMA, SBSI had been the subject of a hearing by the Senate Committee of Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, chaired by Senator Ronald Dela Rosa, regarding alleged qualified trafficking in persons, facilitation of child marriage, solemnization of child marriage, and child abuse charges.

As a result of the information filed by the DOJ, a warrant of arrest has been issued by Regional Trial Court Branch 31 of Dapa town against SBSI president Jey Rence Quilario (alias Senior Agila) and 12 other officers. (PR/PNA)