By: Perla Lena
THE municipality of San Joaquin, Iloilo has declared nearly 1,000 hectares of its land as a critical habitat area, a move meant to protect vulnerable and endangered wildlife.
San Joaquin is the southernmost town of Iloilo.
Rodelio Sedantes, the town’s Sangguniang Bayan (SB) secretary, said in a phone interview on Wednesday that threatened species such as the Visayan Warty Pig or locally known as “baboy talunon,” Rafflesia or “Uroy,” Visayan Hornbill (Tarictic) or “Turarik,” Civet Cat or “Singarong,” and Red Jungle Foul or “Ilahas” have been sighted in the area.
The critical habitat area straddles the contiguous Barangays of Bad-as, Igpayong, San Mateo Norte and Igdagmay where Mt. Bulutinao is located. Its peak part has a thick forest cover making it a “haven for these species.”
Sedantes said that the settlement area of the barangays is not covered by the declaration.
While there was no exact count of the animals yet, people in the area revealed several sightings of various species.
The declaration of the place as a critical habitat area defines the allowed and prohibited activities in the area as mandated by Republic Act 9147 (Wildlife Resources Conservation Protection Act).
Among the “regulated but more of prohibited” activities are the killing and destruction of wild species and other “human activities which will damage threatened species, including logging, burning, quarrying, squatting and dumping of wastes”.
“We also prohibit the trading of said wildlife,” Sedantes said.
To make sure that the San Joaquin Critical Habitat Ordinance is properly enforced, the town has deputized wildlife enforcement officers to keep watch of the critical habitat area.
They are people from the barangays who underwent training on wildlife prevention and enforcement and will also undergo training to be conducted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Sedantes said they intend to create inter-local government unit coordination because the area where the threatened species roam extends up to adjacent towns of Miagao in Iloilo and Sibalom, Antique.
“The animals know no boundaries. We have efforts to talk to our neighboring towns towards this critical habitat area for protection,” he said.
He added that the declaration may not just be limited to the four barangays because it will depend on sightings.
The ordinance, which was passed in April 2018, is in force. A review by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan last week also found the local legislation as enforceable.
Violation of the ordinance would result in a fine of PHP1,500 on the first offense; PHP2,500 on second offense and imprisonment of 30 days or both at the discretion of the court.
Wildlife will be confiscated in favor of the municipality for turnover to the DENR that will take care and return it to its natural habitat within a reasonable period. (With reports from Jessa Mae Padilla & Marvin Mongao, OJTsPNA)