ILOILO – The National Museum of the Philippines has stopped the treasuring hunting in Barangay Pasong, Igbaras, Iloilo.
It sent a team to check the excavation site yesterday – a private lot on a hilly portion of Barangay Pasong.
There were no more diggers around. They may have gotten wind of the inspection.
The supposed treasure hunting permitee, Noly Laquihon Bayogos, was also nowhere in sight.
The cease and desist order from the National Museum was now in effect, declared Honey Beso, chief of the National Museum-operated Western Visayas Regional Museum who led the inspection team.
Together with Ej Peralta and Alan Arriola of the National Museum’s Cultural Properties Regulation Division, Beso inspected the excavation area in coordination with Mayor Jaime Esmeralda.
The excavation reached some 80 meters deep, said Esmeralda.
The cease and desist order was issued by National Museum director-general Jeremy Barns.
The local government of Igbaras recently inquired with the National Museum if it had issued a treasure hunting permit to Bayogos covering the property owned by Leonora Escuriasa. Nearby households feared the excavations would have adverse geological impact such as landslide, soil erosion and the earth caving in.
Villagers said Escuriasa was longer residing in Barangay Pasong; she moved to Guimbal town.
According to Barns, the treasure hunting for alleged Yamashita treasure was “unauthorized and considered illegal.”
The permit in the possession of Bayogos, CPD-THP-2019-20 dated June 1, 2019, was in fact issued to somebody else – Leovigilda Uson / Francisco S. Dela Fuente on May 28, 2019 for Sitio Lanod, Barangay Punean, Carangalan, Nueva Ecijca, according to Barns.
Esmeralda thanked the National Museum for acting fast but he remained concerned.
“Basi magmunog ang ulan kag magluntad ang soil erosion,” he said.
Esmeralda urged village residents to remain vigilant and inform local authorities if the diggers return to resume the excavation.
Violators of the National Museum’s cease and desist order would be arrested, said Esmeralda.
Under the law, all treasure hunting permits and licenses shall be issued by the National Museum of the Philippines.
According to Barns, Bayogos could be charged with violation of Republic Act No. 10066, the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009.
“This Office (also) reserves the right to (take) appropriate legal action against you without prejudice to other agencies’ right to file an action under their mandates and for people or properties largely affected by your illegal activities,” added Barns.
The National Museum chief also ordered Bayogos to rehabilitate the excavated area./PN