The public hearings were conducted in Maitum, Kiamba, and Maasim (MAKIMA) on August 25-26. Partners and stakeholders from the Indigenous Peoples and various sectors, government and non-government organizations, and other concerned agencies convened to discuss their concerns and suggestions on the draft ordinance.
Board Member Irish Louie Arnado, Chairperson of the Committee on Natural Resources, Environmental Protection, and Energy, recognized the significant contribution of Congressman Steve Chiongbian Solon and the full support of Governor Rogelio "Ruel" Pacquiao on this urgent measure.
She stated that the ordinance declaring Mount Busa as an LCA would further “strengthen its protection and conservation measures” from destructive human activities, such as small and large-scale mining, timber-poaching, wildlife hunting, illegal logging, kaingin or slash-and-burn farming, collection of wildlife species or byproducts, land conversion, and others.
The public hearings became an opportunity for the Environmental Conservation and Protection Center (ECPC-Sarangani) to create awareness on why protecting Mount Busa should be prioritized.
According to ECPC Executive Director Cornelio Ramirez, Mount Busa is a vast mountain range that covers 107,275 hectares of thick and mossy forests. Considered the western watershed in Mindanao, it is primarily located in the town of Kiamba, but also covers Maitum and Maasim in Sarangani, and those of Lake Sebu and Tboli in South Cotabato.
Ramirez stressed the need and the urgency for the legislation declaring Mount Busa an LCA “because the flora and fauna resources in Mount Busa are vulnerable, irreplaceable, and are critically endangered species.”
He emphasized that preserving Mount Busa is protecting the critically-endangered Philippine Eagle, rufous hornbill or kalaw, Mindanao flying lizard, dwarf reed snake, Philippine tarsier, orchid species like waling-waling, and some potentially new frog species.
Ramirez said the declaration of Mount Busa as an LCA “will add more teeth to our protection efforts and enforcement of various environmental laws.”
The ordinance states that within 90 days from its approval, the LCA Management Council will create a Technical Working Group with the participation of various stakeholders to formulate an LCA Management Plan for Mount Busa, the "last frontier" in Sarangani. (Jori Mae R. Samillano/SARANGANI PROVINCIAL INFORMATION OFFICE)