The paved provincial road that links Quipayo to the town of Bombon is a good space to get a glimpse of Mt. Isarog in full view on clear, cloudless days. In that distance, the massive dormant volcano stands tall and literally towers it all over the towns surrounding the mountain.
Flashback during our junior high, we joined a month-long volunteer tree-planting project at the site of the Bureau of Forest Development (now Forest Development Management) in Panicuason of Naga city as staging area above the foot of Isarog. There we made makeshift tents that housed our group for five weeks.
At night, we could even see the flickering glimmer of night lamps emanating from the fishing boats at San Miguel bay, on the Sabang front of Calabanga. They looked like myriad fireflies floating on the bay. The dip on the ice-cold lagoon formed by Malabsay falls was a daily respite from the tedious planting chore. Malabsay is one of several falls that can be found around Isarog.
The massive mountain is home to about 1,300 endemic species of plants, 143 species of birds, various species of deer, wild pigs, monkeys, wild cats, shrew rats (including the Isarog native shrew considered the largest in the world), eagles and serpent eagles.
Of the 143 bird species, 15 are only found in Luzon island including a sub-specie of the velvet-fronted bird Nuthatch which is found only in the Isarog wilderness.
Mt. Isarog was proclaimed a national park by virtue of presidential proclamation numbered 214. It was further bolstered with the passage of the law republic act number 7586, which defined a natural park as a forest reservation of unspoiled natural wilderness devoid of any human habitation and exploitation.
Some government and non-government agencies even resolved to continue the reforestation drive of the mountain that vegetation cover is now 80 to 100 percent restored. It is now classified as the tallest mountain in southern Luzon island fully covered with lush vegetation.
Other than these natural resource and beauty, the Calabanga water district, the metro Naga water district and several others source their main supply of potable water from the abundant springs of Isarog. These include the third and fourth congressional district towns that straddle the CamSur mountain. They are the main stakeholders which may want to maintain the status quo of Isarog.
But not all good things are meant to last. The Philippine department of energy (DOE) recently awarded a geothermal exploration contract to the Philippine national oil corporation’s PNOC-Renewable Corporation to find ways to develop the Mount Isarog area with the projected start of exploratory activities this second semester of 2010.
The local governments and the water districts are in the forefront of a looming collision course against the national government or its instrumentality on the interpretation and implementation of PD number 214 and RA number 7586. It will be an interesting sideshow to monitor. Will the people- consumers, eventually get the losing end of the bargain?
With all these exploration and mining actions in the Bicol region initiated by the national government which contradicts itself, and at times awarded to foreign companies that solely enjoy the benefits and fruits of the national patrimony, whom do we ask for relief?