By INA ALLECO SILVERIO
Batangas – The Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) is crying foul against what it said was an act of serious environmental destruction on the part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). The group said that units of the 730th Combat Group of the Philippine Air Force, under the command of Sgt. Joel Macasaet and ?the 16th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, headed by Sgt. Ryan Gonzales are behind the “massacre of mangrove trees” in Barangay Hukay, Calatagan, Batangas, last February 21.
Pamalakaya has already sought the intervention of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), saying that the agency should investigate the cutting of 1.5 hectares of mangroves in Calatagan to clear the way for the construction of a military detachment.mPamalakaya and its local affiliates in Batangas, the Haligi ng Batanguenong Anak-Dagat and the Samahan ng Mga Maliliit na Mangingisda ng Barangay Hukay Inc., said the military, including the local government officials of Calatagan, violated Republic Act 7161 or the law prohibiting the cutting of mangrove trees.
Pamalakaya chairman Fernando Hicap said some 400 old mangrove trees were cut down and another 200 new mangrove trees were uprooted by the AFP.
Based on reports, the 730th Combat Group and the 16th IB, beginning February 24, dispatched five truckloads of guards in the construction area. Protests have already erupted against the project as residents decried the destruction of the mangroves.
“Thousands of people whose livelihood depend on the protection of coastal and marine resources are expected to be affected by the destruction of the mangroves. These mangroves serve as a natural barrier against climate change impacts such as storm surges, and increases in the sea level,” he said.
“What the military is doing is state-sponsored terrorism and environmental destruction. DENR Secretary Ramon Paje should look into this nightmare involving men in uniform and the local officials of Calatagan,” Hicap said.