Heritage Conservation Advocates

Heritage Conservation Advocates

October 15, 2007

Jose Bersales
President, Ugnayang Pang-Agham Tao, Inc. (UGAT)
Philippine Social Science Center,
Commonwealth Avenue
Diliman, Quezon City

Subject: UP-ASP Violation of Code of Ethics of Archaeology

Dear Jose Bersales,

In 2004, a team from the University of the Philippines-Archaeological Studies Program (UP-ASP) conducted research excavations in Huluga and other archaeological sites in Cagayan de Oro. The planning, execution and report of this project violate the code of ethics of archaeology for the following reasons:

Planning of the Project

1. UP-ASP made a deal to do the project for former mayor Vicente Yap (葉) Emano, the person responsible for the damage on the Huluga Open Site. This deal alone puts serious doubt on the purpose of the project.

2. UP-ASP did not consult local anthropologists, historians and other stakeholders in Cagayan de Oro when it agreed to do the project for Emano.

3. UP-ASP snubbed archaeologist Dr. Erlinda M. Burton and ethnohistorian Antonio J. Montalván II, who are president and vice-president of the Heritage Conservation Advocates (HCA), the group that has been fighting for the protection of Huluga, and that filed and won an administrative case against Emano in 2003. UP-ASP ignored other HCA members.

4. UP-ASP made the deal with Emano even though UP-ASP was excluded from the decision of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) in the case filed by HCA versus Emano and his contractor UKC Builders, Inc. in 2003.

5. UP-ASP made the deal with Emano even though the mother of UP-ASP team leader Leee Anthony M. Neri was an employee of the City Planning and Development Office (CPDO).

6. UP-ASP agreed to receive P450, 000 as payment for the project even though the money was "reverted" from "Special Project: Poverty Reduction Effort for Cagayan de Oro Resettlement Areas" in the 2004 Budget of the CPDO. [This act should be investigated because the word "reverted" suggests that the money was originally for UP-ASP -- an improbable condition. We believe that the accurate word is "diverted".]

Execution of the Project

7. UP-ASP did not consult the landowners of the Obsidian Hill when they made excavation on the hill. One of the landowners drove about 10 kilometers from her government office and rebuked UP-ASP.

8. UP-ASP excluded Burton from the team that made the research excavations; it excluded other stakeholders in Cagayan de Oro.

9. UP-ASP instead consulted and worked with the City Historical and Cultural Commission (HISCCOM). The members of this group were handpicked by Emano, denied any damage on Huluga, and were neither anthropologists nor historians.

10. When asked why UP-ASP did not coordinate with Burton, a UP-ASP member described Burton's style of archaeology as outdated during a live interview at COC TV.

11. UP-ASP used Wilson Cabaluna as guide even though Cabaluna is a treasure hunter, responsible for the excavation and destruction of the Huluga midden.

12. UP-ASP ignored the numerous fossils and artifacts found on the surface by HCA in 2003, such as the Copper 8 Maravedis coin and the whale harpoon, which has a National Museum accession number of X-1991-Q2-484.

13. UP-ASP ignored the midden in Huluga even though Neri was aware of its existence. Burton discovered this midden on August 5, 2003, and Neri was present at the scene and received a bone from the HCA secretary.

Report of the Project

14. UP-ASP  attempted to decrease the value of Huluga by concluding in its report that Huluga does not have a midden, and that Obsidian Hill is only a camp-like area, not a settlement, despite the presence of a midden there and the large amount of fossils and artifacts.

15. UP-ASP further attempted to decrease the archaeological value of Huluga by describing the nearby Echem property as "interesting" despite the relatively small amount of artifacts found there so far. UP-ASP speculates that this area, which is not affected by the destructive road project of Emano, could be the site of an ancient settlement.

16. The UP-ASP report also states that other sites in Cagayan de Oro which UP-ASP have not yet studied, could be ancient settlements. But not Huluga.

17. The UP-ASP report does not recommend for the preservation of Huluga and other archaeological sites in Cagayan de Oro.

Consequence of the Project

18. In July 2007, a reporter from the Philippine Daily Inquirer asked a member of the HISCCOM to give comment on the quarrying in Huluga. The member said Huluga is being "developed" because the UP-ASP report says Huluga is not a settlement site.

The HCA congratulates UP-ASP for its findings in Echem property, but the method used by UP-ASP in the planning and execution of the entire project is unethical and misleading. The conclusions are biased against Huluga but protective of the person who destroyed this unique heritage site.

The whole project is political propaganda. It has ruined Huluga and the reputation of UP-ASP as a scientific institution. It has tainted the names of students who joined the project, and has cast doubt on the credibility of other professional Philippine archaeologists.

Because of this blatant disregard for ethics, the law, and the scientific method, the HCA submits this letter of complaint, requesting the ethics committee of UGAT to investigate the members of the UP-ASP team. Efforts to restore public trust on the scientific community should be made, so that heritage sites and objects in the Philippines can be protected and conserved.


[Original printed letter signed.]

Dr. Erlinda M. Burton
President, Heritage Conservation Advocates (HCA)
Cagayan de Oro

Museo de Oro, Xavier University
Cagayan de Oro
(8822) 723116, local 2403; (88) 858116, local 2403



  • Dr. Erlinda M. Burton., "Huluga Site Complex" (Introduction to Huluga. Read first.)
  • Antonio J. Montalván, "The Tragedy of Huluga"
  • Elson T. Elizaga, "Primer on Huluga" [Government destruction of Huluga Open Site.]
  • Elson T. Elizaga, "Don't Call the Police" [UP-ASP violation of the code of ethics of archaeology]
  • Elson T. Elizaga, "Trash" [UP-ASP exclusion of the midden]
  • University of the Philippines-Archaeological Studies Program, "Report on the Cagayan de Oro Archaeological Project"
  • Environmental Management Bureau, "DENR-EMB Case No. 03-0074
  • Cagayan de Oro City Council, Ordinance No. 9053-2004
  • Cagayan de Oro City Council, Ordinance No. 9348-2004
  • Cagayan de Oro City Council, Resolution No. 4433-99
  • Dr. Erlinda M. Burton, letter to the Office of the City Council
  • Corazon S. Alvina, letter to mayor Vicente Yap (葉) Emano, August 13, 2003
  • Code of Conduct of the Registry of Professional Archaeologists
  • Fr. Francisco Demetrio, S.J., "The Huluga Caves and the Prehistory of Cagayan de Oro"
  • Several photos of Huluga: Open Site, fossils and artifacts, the midden