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BUTUAN CITY, Philippines -- A retired general who was the 24th commander of the Philippine Air Force and former Philippine Eagles Foundation president challenged the present administration and the organization tasked to protect the environment to keep a close watch on the environment saying its degradation is the greatest threat to national security.
Retired Lt. Gen. William K. Hotchkiss III gave the statement in an interview last Wednesday after he failed to catch and attend the recently held mass protest against the on going mining operations in Surigao del Sur.
“I think we should preserve our last frontier and protect it for our best interests as a nation. If national security is our primary concern then it is not the rebel groups that we should be worried about but the destruction of our remaining eco-system, our environment,” said Hotchkiss.
Hotchkiss pointed out that during his term as the PAF commander he emphasized the importance of the environment and its protection.
“When I was young, as I fle by Caraga region, I was keen to observe it's changes over the past few years. I can't imagine the devastation we had brought upon our region's rich natural eco-system. Our rainforest, rivers and mountains destroyed in just several years,” he said.
The retired general also made an example of the recent Scarborough standoff between the Philippines and China.
“The recent incident over the Spratlys and Scarborough Shoal proves that even China acknowledge the need for these natural reserves, as the areas are rich in marine and mineral reserves. Unless our government would act for its proper protection, we will lose this forever and other countries would benefit from it,” Hotchkiss said.
Hotchkiss, together with several groups in Surigao, is now finding ways to protect Mount Hilong-hilong, which was recently declared as a key biodiversity area in the Philippines.