DENR hit over delayed action on Santo Tomas issue

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet -- Governor Nestor Fongwan lamented the apparent snail paced action of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) over the now publicized Santo Tomas issue.

Fongwan said a complaint report was made to the DENR as early as April when trekkers in the area informed the governor of the road construction on the area.

"If the DENR acted swiftly, di siguro ganyan ang mangyayri," he said.


Early this month, the DENR ordered to stop any movement in the area and said the road construction under Representative Nicasio Aliping Jr.'s claimed property is within an Environmentally Critical Area (ECA) and cited the lack of an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) by the legislator.

The DENR filed only this week criminal charges against Aliping for violations of the Philippine Forestry Code.

Fongwan said that while all the focus was on Mt. Pulag, another embattled area in the province, destruction was wrought over Santo Tomas.

While Fongwan is backing the recent move of the DENR to file a case against Aliping, who is now in the center of the controversy, the governor is asking the environmental agency to look into other aspects of the problem.

Fongwan said the DENR should investigate the indiscriminate vegetable farming in Santo Tomas.

"My initial report to the DENR in April cited garden expansion and garbage dumping in the area," he said.

Fongwan added the issue of garden expansions in the area is also as alarming as the apparent tree cutting and road construction faced at present.

The governor said households along Marcos Highway and Tuba are threatened by the Aliping construction and will suffer damages in their water source.

Mount Santo Tomas, located in Tuba town, is part of a forest reservation and watershed supposed to be protected from tree cutting, massive development and housing.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on June 13, 2014.

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