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Save Biak na Bato Nat’l Park, Palace told

MALOLOS CITY — Dozens of non-government organizations (NGOs) in Bulacan signed an urgent appeal to President Arroyo here yesterday to save the Biak na Bato National Park from indiscriminate mining.

"This is a general appeal to the President and we will still (issue) separate appeals to concerned government agencies that will be more detailed," said Remedios Macalingcag, president of the Dangal ng Bulacan Foundation (DBF).

Joining the DBF in the move to preserve Biak na Bato are the Bulacan Tourism Council, Bulacan Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Bulacan Koalisyon Inc. (Bukal).

The appeal for a stop to marble mining in the 2,117-hectare national park arose from fears that the historic area might be desecrated.

The NGOs cited the role Biak na Bato played in the country’s history, being the place where General Emilio Aguinaldo established the Second Philippine Republic and where the first Constitution was written and approved in 1897.

The NGOs’ appeal came following the mudslide that flattened Barangay Guinsaugon in Saint Bernard, Southern Leyte, which left hundreds of villagers dead, injured or missing.

The landslides in Quezon, Aurora and Ormoc City (Leyte) are also still fresh in the minds of the NGOs’ members.

However, Rey Naguit, of the Buklurang Biak na Bato, believes that landslides might not occur in the national park in the near future.

Naguit, however, said the unabated destruction of the Sierra Madre range in Bulacan through mining, timber poaching and upland farming might trigger flash floods in the eastern part of the province as well as deeper and longer floods in the coastal towns of Hagonoy and Calumpit in western Bulacan.

Meanwhile, Mariano Roy Duya, of the Conservation International-Philippines, said efforts to protect the environment would not succeed by arresting illegal loggers and mining operators alone.

"We must address the needs of the people and that is livelihood," he said.

According to Duya, only 8,000 square kilometers of the country’s primary forest cover remain due to illegal activities in the uplands.

Gigi Simbulan, head of the Bulacan Tourism Council, told The STAR that government officials have devised a plan to convert the Biak na Bato National Park into a tourist destination.

She confirmed an earlier STAR report that Gov. Josie de la Cruz and Rep. Lorna Silverio have allocated funds for the development of the national park into an ecotourism spot, which is expected to create jobs for hundreds of local folk.

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