The Agusan marshland is in “critical condition’ due to unabated cutting of trees, the Anti-Illegal Task Force said on Tuesday.
Lolong’s lair. The Guinness-certified biggest saltwater crocodile, “Lolong,” thrives in Agusan marshlands.
The AILTF made the observation after conducting an aerial observation of the area. The task force said if unchecked, this could lead to heavy siltation that could trigger more destructive flashfoods to lowland populated areas.
The Agusan marsh is where “Lolong,” certified by the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s biggest crocodile in captivity, was captured.
“If we talk of the CARAGA area, there was aggressive cutting of trees which is very alarming especially in the PICOP (Paper Industries Corp of the Phil (PICOP) area where there was no government presence. The forest condition in the region though is relatively okay except for the Agusan marshland area and the PICOP area. The Agusan marshland is a very critical area; it is one of the best marshlands in the world where the specie of our very ‘Lolong’ thrives, the biggest crocodile in the world. It is practically a big marshland area on top of a plateau. We should stop cutting trees within and outside the marshland area to preserve this beauty of nature or else siltation is just around the corner,” AILTF Executive Director Renato Miranda said.
PICOP, a company engaged in the pulp business, went bankrupt because of “mismanagement” and its concession area in CARAGA was seized by the Landbank of the Philippines (LBP) because the company reportedly owes the bank billions of pesos in loan.
“The area (PICOP) is right now controlled by the LandBank, which is not capable of managing [it],” Miranda said.
PICOP owns properties in Surigao del Sur, Agusan del Sur Sur, Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley, but the bulk of its operation was in Surigao del Sur and its center of trade was located in Bislig City.
A large part of the marshland is located in Agusan del Sur where the 51,000-hectare Agroforestation Complex of the Manobo tribe is found, which is also in danger of ecological destruction because of illegal logging and mining activities.
“The marshland is so big that it stretches up to Compostela Valley. When I say big, it’s almost half of Metro Manila. When we say marshland, it is abundant with trees but during our aerial survey we found out traces of cutting activities. There is a potential threat of siltation,” the retired Marine general said.
“This situation of the marshland, I think, should be given to the experts for study. I don’t know what to suggest but I think the situation there right now is the natural habitat is really in danger,” he said.
Aside from illegal loggers, slash-and-burn farming (kaingin) is also prevalent in the area. Miranda said the marshland is slowly turning into a “wild, wild West.”
“The area is a public domain or owned by the government but what’s happening is that everybody now wants a piece of the land. There is this so-called NCIP (National Commission on Indigenous People) lots, kaingeros’ lots, illegal loggers’ domain, and so on and so forth. The government is at a loss and maybe that is the reason why there is aggressive cutting of trees. That is why I’m strongly recommending that the government should take hold of the PICOP area,” Miranda said.