Bataan farmers held sans warrant of arrest—NBI

Morong, Bataan—Farmers cultivating portions of the Bataan National Park have been arrested by agents of the National Bureau of Investigation without warrant of arrest or any court order following a raid Tuesday at the residential areas in Barangay Mabayo here.

The raiding team, accompanied by personnel from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)-Central Office, bodily removed occupants of houses on allegations that they unlawfully occupied government lots.

Farmers Marlon Good, Darwin Cojeda, Fely Robles, Edgar Rino and Francisco Lovilla, Jr., have been cultivating the lots awarded to them by the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) for more than 30 years.

Lovilla has secured certification from PENRO allowing his farming venture inside the idle lot of the former Bataan Technopark.

Robles said her bag, carrying P40,000 cash and some jewelry, have been taken by a man claiming to be an NBI agent. The bag was missing when they arrived at the NBI Headquarters in Manila.

DENR3 Executive Director Paquito Moreno said the raiding team, with some personnel of the Biodiversity Management Bureau, coordinated with his office before they proceed to the Bataan National Park.

“The BMB takes care of the policies on protected areas, the operatives undertook the raid with NBI who coordinated with the regional office of DENR3,” said Moreno.

Highly placed sources said the property being occupied by the farmers was purportedly allocated to an Israeli firm with links to a local business partner engaged in green technology. 

The source furthered that DENR-BMB, DENR Central Luzon and the firm have signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) recently for the use of the land.

“Under the MOA, the Israeli firm and its local business partner were allowed to conduct study on the soil condition, get some samples to check the appropriate species to be planted. They will come up with result of study and presented it to the Board for approval,” said Montero, adding that it is a long process before the lot will be awarded to interested companies.

However, he denied that the arrest of farmers has something to do with the supposed takeover of the land by Israeli firm and its local partner. 

“This is a legitimate operations by the NBI because this is under my area of responsibility to enforce the existing laws om protected areas, that is what they were arrested when the raiding team caught them while constructing houses using concrete materials,” said Montero. 

The farmers, Montero said, occupied and cultivated the lands without the necessary permits and approval from the concerned agency.

However, he assured that the farmers’ rights will be protected.

“They will have their days in court and due process will be observed as they go through the judicial process,” Montero stressed.

The NBI raiding team seized different kinds of construction materials including cement mixer found in one of the residential areas inside the BNP. Violation of the Republic Act 7586 or the Expanded National Integrated Protective Area System.

Topics: Bataan , Bataan National Park , National Bureau of Investigation , Department of Environment and Natural Resources
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