BAGUIO CITY: Mayor Benjamin Magalong has issued an order stopping any treasure hunting in the city to ensure appropriate preservation and protection of the environment.

Magalong said treasure hunting activity would have serious negative impact to the state of the city's environment, especially the stability of the dug-up areas.

Earlier, the National Museum issued a treasure hunting permit to a certain Eliseo Cabusao to conduct his operation within the vicinity of the Baguio Convention Center (BCC) and the University of the Philippines College Baguio (UPCB) to recover a huge volume of gold bars allegedly left by the members of the Japanese Imperial Army.

The former city council gave consent to the treasure hunting activity for a limited period of 60 days and mandated the treasure hunter to restore any damaged area to its original state aside from posting a bond.

However, the treasure hunting activity was done in the basement of the city-owned convention facility that compromised the structural integrity of the building, which was built over four decades ago.

Magalong claimed that based on the assessment conducted by City Administrator Bonifacio de la Peña, a well-known geotechnical engineer, on the structural integrity of the convention center building, the mode of restoring the dug-up holes could be done according to specified standards but there was a need for experts to establish the structural integrity of the facility after the treasure hunting activity.

One of the reasons for the delayed completion of the multi-million rehabilitation of the city-owned convention facility was the unpatched dug-up holes made by Cabusao who neither reported any recovered gold bars nor did he comply with the requirements to restore the destroyed basement of the convention facility.

Under existing laws, rules and regulations, the National Museum is empowered to issue the required permit for treasure hunting in any part of the country.

Local governments are mandated to respect treasure hunting permits issued by the National Museum to individuals or groups.

World War 2 in the Philippines started in Baguio City after Japanese warplanes bombed the main gate of Camp John Hay on Aug. 8, 1941. The war also ended in the city with the formal signing of the deed of surrender of Japanese Imperial Army head Gen. Tomoyoki Yamashita right inside the Ambassador's Residence on Sept. 3, 1945 after his capture in Kiangan, Ifugao by joint Filipino and American forces a day before.

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