BAUKO, Mountain Province – Mayor Abraham B. Akilit wants fellow local executives in the towns hosting portions of the Mount Data National Park to work out the cancellation of tax declarations previously issued over the watershed and forest reservation in order to prevent rampant expansion of commercial vegetable farms into the undisturbed areas that would compromise the state of the remaining pine stand in the region.
Akilit said aside from cancelling the tax declaration issued over portions of the watershed, concerned local officials must also refraim from continuously issuing tax declarations over remaining portions of the reservation in order to stop the massive expansion of commercial gardens into critical portions of the national park.
“Tax declarations are not conclusive proofs of ownership to the lands that vegetable farmers are currently tilling. WE consider the issued tax declarations as void because declared forest reservations are inalienable and indisposable,” Akilit stressed.
He pointed out the effort to preserve and protect the Mount Data forest reservation should be the individual and collective efforts of residents and local officials that is why people should cooperate with the policy of non-expansion of existing commercial gardens.
However, Akilit disclosed amidst standing orders to stop the expansion of commercial vegetable farms, numerous individuals from neighboring towns use mechanized units of equipment to continue ravaging the state of the watersheds and encroaching into undisturbed areas that contribute to massive forest denudation.
The over 50,000-hectare Mount Data forest reservation strands from the municipality of Tublay, Benguet up to the capital town of Bontoc in Mountain Province and serves as the headwaters of four major river systems, the Agno, Chico, Abra and Magat rivers, that serve as the major source of abundant water for agriculture, domestic, irrigation, power generation and industrial purposes.
Akilit, who was the former regional manager of the Cordillera office of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA-CAR), said the preservation and protection of the watersheds has been his long standing advocacy because people must value the benefits of a good state of environment for the benefit of the present and future generations.
According to him, concerned government agencies and local governments hosting watersheds must strictly enforce environmental laws in order to prevent massive encroachments to undisturbed portions of the watersheds in their places so that they will continue to enjoy having a good state of the environment.
Bauko is situated at the top most portion of the Mount Data watershed and hosts over 18,000 hectares in land area and is comprised of 22 barangays.
Akilit appealed to local residents living in communities located within the watershed to heed the call of non-expansion of their commercial vegetable farms because any act to contribute in the destruction of the environment by encroaching into the undisturbed watershed will be dealt with accordingly.
“We hope that we were able to send the message to our constituents and the residents of our neighboring towns that we mean business in the implementation of our environmental laws. We will not tolerate the destruction of our remaining forests,” Akilit said. By Dexter A. See