TUBA, Benguet – The municipal government recently ordered the owners of more or less 150 detached structures used as business establishments within the 3,100-hectare Mount Sto. Tomas forest reservation to voluntarily demolish their structures on or before July 2 to avoid the confiscation of the materials used in the construction of the temporary tenements within the watershed.
Mayor Florencio Bentres said the structures to be demolished will be the ones located along the road network within the forest reservation before the concerned agencies and the local government will deal with the structures in the various communities established therein.
“We have to strictly adhere to the directive of the Court of Appeals outlined in the Permanent Environment Protection Order (PEPO) so that we will not be charged for undermining the CA order. Our constituents in the area should understand that we are merely implementing the mandate of the CA, no more, no less,” Bentres stressed.
He explained that if the owners of structures who were issued notices will not voluntarily dismantle their structures, then it will be the local government that will demolish the structures after July 2 and will subsequently confiscate the materials used in favour of the local government for future uses.
Aside from the demolition of the detached structures, the local chief executive disclosed the municipal government will no longer issue building permits for structures that will be built in the area considering that no future construction activities will be allowed pursuant to the PEPO.
Further, no tax declarations will also be issued by the municipal assessor’s office covering portions of the forest reservation or subdividing an earlier issued mother tax declaration to prevent the mushrooming of structures within the rapidly deteriorating reservation.
Bentres said concerned stakeholders, including the petitioners for the issuance of the writ of kalikasan, are constantly conducting consultations in order to update the compliance of concerned government agencies and the municipal government to their outlined responsibilities for the preservation and protection of the forest reservation.
According to him, the concerned government agencies, local government, the petitioners and the residents in the area are working out appropriate measures on how to strike a balance between preserving and protecting the environment and sustaining the living condition of the inhabitants of the area while satisfactorily complying with the PEPO as ordered by the CA.
Bentres urged local residents to cooperate with the strict implementation of the outlined mandate of concerned government agencies and the local government to prevent the filing of future administrative and criminal charges that will be filed against them once they are not able to perform their duties and responsibilities enshrined in the order.
Bentres appealed to the public for understanding, especially in the implementation of the various environmental preservation and protection, considering that there will be some unavoidable circumstances that could delay the needed actions but they will work on it immediately in order to comply with the mandate of the PEPO the soonest.
Apart from the municipal government, the CA also tasked the environment department to closely work together in order to guarantee the smooth implementation of outlined projects that will help bring back the state of the forest reservation. By Dexter A. See