Baguio lawmaker sued for tree cutting
LA TRINIDAD, Philippines—The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) filed a complaint against Baguio City Rep. Nicasio Aliping Jr. and officials of three construction firms for the cutting of trees within the Mt. Santo Tomas forest reservation in Tuba town in Benguet province.
Benguet provincial prosecutor William Bacoling on Monday said the complaint, which stemmed from a road project linked to Aliping in Mt. Santo Tomas, was filed by Octavio Cuanso, acting Benguet provincial environment and natural resources officer, on behalf of the DENR Cordillera regional office on June 6.
Bacoling said the complaint was assigned to assistant provincial prosecutor Raymund Botengan.
Aside from Aliping, the other respondents were William Go, president of Goldrich Construction; Romeo Aquino of RU Aquino Construction Development Corp., and Bernard Capuyan, managing officer of BLC Construction and Aggregates.
Bacoling said Aliping and the construction firms’ officials were accused of violating Presidential Decree No. 705 (Revised Forestry Code), particularly Section 77 on cutting, removing, gathering or collecting timber from a forest reservation, and Section 78 on the unlawful occupation and destruction of forest and grazing lands.
The respondents were given 10 days upon receipt of the subpoena to submit their counteraffidavits. Bacoling said Botengan sent out the subpoena on Monday.
Aliping’s family owns a property on Mt. Cabuyao near the Mt. Santo Tomas watershed area, to where a 2-kilometer road project supposedly leads, according to Inquirer sources.
The watershed straddles Baguio City and Tuba town in Benguet. It is also surrounded by vegetable gardens.
Last week, Aliping provided little details about the road project, saying he needed to be provided a copy of the DENR investigation report. He said, however, that he would comply with the DENR’s requirements and penalties and would help fix the problem.
The DENR earlier stopped the road project after the agency discovered 761 damaged trees along the route.
Earlier, Paquito Moreno, DENR Cordillera director, said the project had not secured an environmental compliance certificate or tree-cutting permits.
On June 2, the project was stopped by Oscar Cabayanan, Cordillera director of the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau.
On Monday, the Benguet provincial board approved a resolution condemning the massive tree cutting at Mt. Santo Tomas. The resolution was sponsored by Blas Dalus, the newly appointed indigenous peoples’ representative to the board.
Benguet Gov. Nestor Fongwan said he informed the DENR about the tree cutting on Mt. Santo Tomas as early as April.
“It was part of our recommendation that the DENR file appropriate charges to stop the destruction of the forest. What took DENR so long to act on the matter?” Fongwan said.
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