MANILA (UPDATED) - The Court of Appeals (CA) has issued a Writ of Kalikasan and made permanent a temporary environmental protection order (TEPO) it had issued earlier to bar the undertaking of any activity that may lead to the destruction of the Mount Santo Tomas Forest Reserve in Tuba, Benguet.
The writ covers Sitio Pungayan in Tuba, which is the actual site of the fictional town of La Presa in the hit ABS-CBN teleserye "Forevermore" starring Liza Soberano and Enrique Gil.
It is located near the summit of Mount Cabuyao in Tuba, Benguet.
Since "Forevermore" debuted in October, the quiet village has become a tourist phenomenon of sorts, transforming local businesses and attracting unheard-of levels of traffic.
ABS-CBN's Star Magic earlier cancelled a May 10 thanksgiving concert at Sitio Pungayan due to "environmental concerns raised regarding the event's venue."
In a 54-page decision, dated May 6, 2015, the appellate court's former Fifth Division, through Associate Justice Ramon Cruz, granted the plea of petitioners led by Bishop Carlito Cenzon and Archbishop Socrates Villegas, who sought the issuance of the writ and TEPO "due to anthropogenic activities within the Mount Santo Tomas Forest Reserve" and due to the "ongoing destruction of portions" of the reserve.
The writ and TEPO cover the following respondents: Baguio City Representative Nicasio Aliping, Tuba Mayor Florencio Bentrez, Municipal Assessor Prudencio Pinkisan, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), DENR Secretary Ramon Paje, Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), and the Tuba Police.
The following are the acts enjoined by the order:
For Rep. Aliping and any representative acting for and in his behalf:
- permanently cease and desist from performing acts to develop or enhance the property he is claiming located at the forest reserve, including the bulldozing, levelling or any earth-moving activity, improving the old building standing on the land, building any structure thereon, continuing with road opening activities, and concreting any part of the road;
- mitigate the soil erosion caused by his earth-moving activities leading to the siltation of the Amliang Dams 1, 2A, 2B and 3; and
- rehabilitate the portions of the forest reserve which have been destroyed by road-opening activities, more particularly -- the 2-kilometer stretch which starts from Aliping Jr's claimed property down to the river at the bottom of the mountain by conducting massive planting of trees.
For Mayor Bentrez:
- cease and desist from issuing any and all kinds of permits to conduct activities within the forest reserve, including but not limited to the operation of businesses and utilizing any area for filming movies and television shows, without clearance from the DENR, and to cancel the permits already issued;
- instruct the Municipal Engineer to cease and desist from issuing building permits within the forest reserve without clearance from the DENR;
- come up with the necessary ordinance outlawing the issuance of tax declarations over portions of the forest reserve, and prohibiting the alienation of portions of it;
- coordinate with the DENR-CAR, PENRO, CENRO and other government agencies in guarding the forest reserve against further cutting of trees, illegal excavation and other forms of earth-moving activities, illegal mining, construction of houses and other buildings, and expansion of vegetable gardens; and
- incorporate the conservation of the forest reserve in its Environmental Code, or if there is none, for the Mayor to immediately take steps to pass such a code.
For the DENR, DENR-CAR, and EMB-CAR:
- establish the perimeter of the forest reserve;
- deploy personnel to guard against further cutting of trees, illegal excavation and other forms of earth-moving activities, illegal mining, construction of houses and other buildings, and expansion of vegetable gardens;
- prosecute violators of environmetal laws within the forest reserve, including but not limited to, illegal loggers and illegal settlers;
- make an assessment of the physical condition and ecological status of the forest reserve;
- come up with a comprehensive plan to mitigate the pollution/contamination of the springs and the river system resulting from the erosion by earth-moving activities, illegal logging, agricultural and human settlement activities and other anthropogenic activities;
- initiate the necessary actions to investigate the issuances of tax declaration covering areas within the forest reserve and take necessary steps for the nullification of illegally issued tax declarations;
- monitor the compliance with the environmental laws, rules and regulations, and implement corporate environmental accountability of all licensees and permittees within the forest reserve, including relay stations and communications towers; and
- and formulate long-term conservation and management plan for the forest reserve to be maintained as a major fresh water source in Baguio and Benguet.
For the Tuba Police:
- enforce environmental laws, and apprehend violators of forest laws, mining laws.
For DENR Sec. Paje:
- ensure the compliance of the DENR and its sub-agencies of this decision;
The respondents were also ordered to submit to the CA a quarterly progressive report of activities undertaken in accordance with the decision.