Aliping arraigned for destruction of Mt. Sto. Tomas forest reserve
LA TRINIDAD, BENGUET – A Benguet court entered a “not guilty’ plea for former Baguio Rep. Nicasio Aliping Jr. who refused to give one during his Tuesday arraignment for the destruction of trees and a water source at the Mt. Sto. Tomas forest reserve in 2014.
Aliping was arraigned along with three contractors, who were blamed for a road excavation that uprooted about 700 trees. The road project was discovered by mountain hikers in April 2014.
Mud and gravel that polluted a spring, from where the Baguio Water District draws water for parts of Baguio City and the Benguet town of Tuba, have also been attributed to the excavation. The forest reserve straddles the city and Tuba.
Judge Emmanuel Rasing of the Regional Trial Court Branch 10 also entered a “not guilty” plea for contractor Bernard Capuyan. Contractors Romeo Aquino and William Go entered “not guilty” pleas.
The lawsuit was filed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which says the excavation was responsible for P10.3 million worth of damages at the forest reserve.
On November 16, Aliping and the contractors posted bail, following an arrest warrant issued by Rasing.
Aliping and the contractors violated Presidential Decree No. 705 or the amended Revised Forestry Code, for their alleged role in destroying 708 Benguet pine trees and 53 alnus trees at the forest reservation in Tuba’s Poblacion village, according to the DENR.
Aliping and the contractors have denied taking part in the excavation.
The Office of the Benguet Prosecutor told the court that it was ready to present 33 witnesses once trial starts. A pre-trial conference has been scheduled on January 18.
Visitor are familiar with Mt. Sto. Tomas because of two giant satellite dishes at its peak which could be seen from downtown Baguio.
Mt. Sto. Tomas was granted a permanent environmental protection order in 2015, after residents of Baguio and Tuba, and church leaders petitioned the Supreme Court for a Writ of Kalikasan due to the road excavation controversy.
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