Bikers sued for damaging Benguet forest
LA TRINIDAD, Benguet—A motorcycle riders’ club from Rizal province has been sued for damaging a natural forest trail of Mount Purgatory in Bokod town in October 2015.
Benguet Prosecutor William Bacoling said he pursued the charges against members of the Montalban Riders Association for forest destruction after they entered a protected area without the necessary permit.
Bacoling acted on the complaint filed by Aida Joseph, supervisor of the Upper Agno River Basin Resource Reserve of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
According to the bikers’ affidavit, they were not aware they had crossed into a protected forest area when they staged a motocross activity there on the invitation of a biker from La Trinidad town.
The bikers said they were shown a permit issued by officials of Karao village in Bokod.
In their affidavit, the bikers said they had no “criminal intent … to commit a wrong,” arguing that they believed “they were allowed to enter Mt. Purgatory with their motorcycles.”
Act of contrition
As an act of contrition, the bikers donated a pig for a ritual performed by the affected Bokod community and paid P50,000 to help restore the damaged trail.
“Nevertheless, [whether or not] it was a ‘mistake of fact’ [and] ‘good faith’ on the part of the respondents, is of no consequence since these are matters of defense, which are best ventilated in the court during the trial on the merits,” said the prosecutor’s resolution.
Purgatory stands next to the Mount Pulag National Park.
Before the incident last year, the Bokod government had closed the park to tourists from July to August to allow the forest to rejuvenate.
The town’s “Save Mount Purgatory Project” has scheduled tree-planting activities on the mountain for two months every year.
Purgatory is locally known as Mt. Mangisi. It has been marketed as an alternative to the Pulag trek and features forest trails. Kimberlie Quitasol, Inquirer Northern Luzon
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