Siargao cult loses protected area rights after building homes, wave pool inside Sanctuary

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The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has terminated its agreement with the religious group Socorro Bayanihan Services Inc. (SBSI) for managing a portion of the Siargao Island Protected Landscape and Seascape.

The move comes after the DENR discovered unauthorized constructions within the protected area, including houses, checkpoints, and surprisingly, a wave pool, recording studio, and radio station.

SBSI was awarded a Protected Area Community-Based Resource Management Agreement (PACBRMA) in 2004, allowing them to manage 353 hectares of the protected area. However, the DENR suspended this agreement in September 2023 due to concerns.

The DENR is now working with other government agencies to help the 404 households affected by the cancellation. Notably, SBSI initially only had 243 members in 2004, raising questions about the significant increase in residents.

A PACBRMA is a 25-year agreement, renewable for another 25 years, intended for partnerships with qualified communities. However, concerns arose in August 2019 when DENR monitoring teams discovered unauthorized structures within the area.

Beyond the unauthorized structures, Environment Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga also considered severe allegations against SBSI’s leadership, including human trafficking, child marriage facilitation, and child abuse. These accusations directly involved SBSI President Jey Rence Quilario, also known as Señor Aguila.

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