Illegal ‘treasure hunting’ discovered on Hundred Islands

ALAMINOS CITY, Pangasinan – The Community Environment and Natural Resources (CENRO) has uncovered alleged illegal treasure hunting activities in one of the islands of the Hundred Islands National Park (HINP) in this city, an official said Friday.

Lawyer Hipolito Salatan, CENRO western Pangasinan officer-in-charge, said an abandoned bunkhouse was found on one of the islands last week, along with a generator set, two water pumps and several pipes.

“May nag-tip sa atin na mayroon umanong treasure hunting or mining na nagaganap sa naturang isla (An informant told us an alleged treasure hunting activity or mining is happening in one of the islands),” Salatan said in an interview.

He, however, said mining is not possible on the islands as the land formations there are mostly made up of limestone.

Rumors surrounding the hidden “Yamashita’s Treasure” – a trove of accumulated treasures allegedly hoarded by Japanese soldiers during their occupation of several countries in Southeast Asia during World War II – have been circulating, and some speculate that these are hidden somewhere on one of HINP’s islands.

“Hindi naman bawal ang treasure hunting, actually may batas tayo diyan. Siguraduhin lang nila na sumusunod sila sa batas. Bawal po ang mag-treasure hunting sa Hundred Islands (Treasure hunting in itself is not prohibited provided they abide by the law. In this case, it is prohibited in Hundred Islands),” Salatan said.

He is referring to the provisions of Republic Act 7586, otherwise known as the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992, which prohibits acts that could potentially destroy sites declared as National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS), such as the HINP.

“Bawal po mag-mina or magtreasure hunt sa mga lugar na NIPAS, ultimo nga po kumuha ng bato o buhangin doon as souvenir hindi rin puwede (Mining and treasure hunting in places or areas under NIPAS is prohibited, even the simple act of taking stones or sands as souvenirs is not allowed),” he said.

Under the law, violators will be imprisoned for not lower than one year, and are ordered to pay fines not lower than PHP5,000.

Meanwhile, authorities have made stricter monitoring regulations on the islands.  Ahikam Pasion / PNA –