P40 million required to rehab Mount Sto. Tomas reserve


TUBA, Benguet June 05 – The government needs at least P40 million in order to implement the numerous activities outlined by the Court of Appeals (CA) in granting the Permanent Environment Protection Order (PEPO) against all man-made activities within the 3,00-hectare Mount Sto. Tomas forest reservation.

In a recent meeting with stakeholders, the writ of kalikasan petitioners, local officials of Tuba and representatives from the environment department, Engr. Ralph Pablo revealed that instead of imposing a moratorium on the watershed, it was agreed that instead of imposing a moratorium, the municipal government of Tuba was tasked to determine the allowable number of tourists to visit the Mount Sto. Tomas area at one time in order to regulate the influx of visitors in the area and that the same must be done on or before June 15.

He added it was also decided by the concerned stakeholders that the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB-CAR) will closely coordinate with the Tuba municipal government and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to immediately close the operation of ten small-scale mining associations that are located in the different parts of the forest reservation.

Further, Pablo added there will also be an immediate demolition of detached or temporary stalls, especially within sitio Pungayan, popularly known as La Presa area, and that the Tuba municipal government shall issue the required demolition order but concerned agencies shall head up the business owners to prepare for themselves before pushing through with the demolition.

“Voluntary demolition of the structures subject of the notices of demolition is also encouraged by the stakeholders, provided, that all illegal structures in the area should be removed on or before July 2,”Pablo stressed.

It was also agreed that DENR personnel will closely monitor the implementation of the demolition of the detached structures considering that the agency already issued two notices to vacate to the stall owners.

In addition, the DENR-CAR and the Tuba municipal government will undertake a joint survey of the metes and bounds of the Mount Sto. Tomas forest reservation, markers shall be installed in each corner and markers should be visible and not movable or those classified as intermediate markers.

Before the start of the survey, DENR-CAR shall source out the initial P1.3 million in order to undertake the activity that will last for six months until such time that the writ of kalikasan shall have been declared final and executor.

According to him, DENR shall issue a special order for the conduct of the jint survey with the Tuba municipal government after the finalization of the prescribed work and financial plan.

Pablo disclosed census of the forest reservation occupants and their improvements will be dependent on the completion of the survey at the middle or heart of the watershed.

After the establishment of the actual perimeters of the watershed, the joint survey will be immediately carried out.

Pablo emphasized existing secondary data in the barangay and the local government unit will be considered for the said activity to guide the joint survey team in proceeding with the mandated survey and census of population and improvements in the reservation.

On the other hand, DENR and the Tuba municipal government will conduct consultations with the farmers and occupants on the agreed zoning in the reservation in order to increase the forest cover and sustain its classification as a watershed.

Moreover, DENR will also conduct watershed characterization and vulnerability assessment of the reservation and strengthen the co-management plan with the Tuba Indigenous Peoples Organization (TIPO) and the agreement.

The stakeholders agreed concerned agencies and the Tuba municipal government will revisit look into the forest land use plan prepared for the reservation and that the activity shall take into consideration the snowballing call for environmental preservation and conservation as well as include a good partnership with the people in order to come up with a multi-disciplinary plan.

In the case of Baguio City Rep. Nicasio M. Aliping, Jr. who was the main subject of the PEPO, Pablo disclosed that Rep. Aliping will personally shoulder the expenses for the restoration and rehabilitation of the damaged forest cover where the 2.6-kilometer road leading to his proposed eco park was built and ravaged.

By Dexter A. See