BAGUIO CITY - The Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) - Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) filed charges against Baguio City Congressman Nicasio Aliping, Jr., and three others for allegedly cutting more than 700 pine trees for a road project.
On May 23, residents discovered that a total of 761 pine trees were cut down in Sto. Tomas Forest Reserve in Tuba, Benguet.
The trees were cut down to pave the way for a 2-kilometer road construction project in the area.
The incident resulted to soil erosion and water contamination in the area, with residents complaining of turbid water coming out of their faucets.
The Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) in Cordillera confirmed that the road project does not have an environmental compliance certificate (ECC). It also does not have a tree cutting permit.
EMB also believes that Aliping was behind the said project.
On June 5, the EMB released a notice of violation and a cease and desist order against Aliping and three contractors involved in the project: Willy Go of Goldrich Construction, Bernard Capuyan of BLC Construction, and Romeo Aquino of RUA Construction.
Aliping admitted that he owns a private lot in the area, and that he has a project there.
However, he said that the forest is part of different barangays.
"Yun nga yung kailangan nating i-differentiate kasi may sinasabi siya na Mt. St. Tomas, pero sa andun sa Mt. Sto. Tomas, e may Cabuyao area pa 'yun kaya nga tignan muna natin 'yung mga sinasabi nila."
PENRO on Friday (June 6) filed charges against Aliping and the three contractors, for violation of Section 77 (Cutting, Gathering and/or Collecting of Timber or other Forest Products Without License), and Section 78 (Unlawful Occupation or Destruction of Forest Lands) of Presidential Decree 705, or the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines.
Aliping and the three other accused have yet to comment on the issue.
Meanwhile, road construction in Sto. Tomas has been suspended, but residents are still suffering from the effects of soil erosion and water contamination. -- report from KC Zalavaria, ABS-CBN News North Luzon