The National Museum of the Philippines (NMP) said the permit it earlier issued to a treasure-hunting activity in Igbaras town could be canceled if the activity poses environmental risks.
In a phone interview on Sunday, lawyer Cecillia Terol, NMP’s officer-in-charge, deputy director general for administration, confirmed that the permit of the group excavating in Pasong village was indeed issued by their office.
The treasure-hunting activity has alarmed local officials and residents as it can possibly cause soil erosion and affect nine households.
Igbaras Mayor Jaime Esmeralda has met with Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr. to ask for his help to stop the excavation which has so far covered a 1,000-square meter area.
“I am confirming that it (permit) is from us because if you can see the signatory there, it’s Angel Bautista,” Terol said.
Bautista served as former chief of NMP’s Cultural Properties Regulation Division.
“It is in our rules that we will cancel the permit if there are environmental impact and also danger in the neighboring areas there. It is within the power of NM (to cancel) and of course, with the endorsement of the local government unit,” Terol said.
NMP regulates treasure hunting activities in public or private lands as well as the disposition of recovered hidden treasures or things of value. The regulation is by virtue of Republic Act 4846 as amended by Presidential Decree 374, otherwise known as Cultural Properties Preservation and Protection Act.
Terol said under the guidelines, applicants for a treasure-hunting activity must first secure a clearance from the local government unit if the area to be excavated is public land.
The applicant must also seek clearance from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources if the area is protected, she added.
Terol said since the activity in Igbaras town concerns a private land, the consent of the property owner would suffice for the group to conduct an excavation.
But given the environmental impact of the treasure hunting, she said the local government unit can send them an endorsement to stop the activity.
“The case is brought to our attention, we can act. (It will be) lucky if we chance upon areas covered by permit so if there are problems, then we can act on that. We really need a report from the locality,” Terol said.
She said the permit holders should also submit their plans on the areas covered for excavation and it would be another violation of the law if the permittee goes beyond the area stated. (PNA)