BAGUIO CITY, Benguet—A lawmaker accused of cutting trees and making excavations inside the Sto. Tomas watershed turned down demands by forestry and environment officials to repair the damages he allegedly caused in the area, a lawyer for multi-sectoral and pro-environment group said on Thursday.
Francisca Claver said Baguio Rep. Nicasio Aliping denied he cut trees and made illegal excavations inside the protected forest and refused to enter into an agreement that will require him to repair the damages, including replanting of new trees.
“Aliping turned down an agreement for the supposed rehabilitation of the destruction inside Mt. Sto. Tomas,” Claver said.
The Court of Appeals has decided to proceed with the hearings on the writ of kalikasan filed against Aliping after both parties failed to reach an agreement. The Court ordered them to present witnesses on February 3-4 to resolve a petition for Environment Protection Order that will stop Aliping from pursuing his project inside the watershed.
Aliping denied he engaged in illegal logging and excavations that led the closure of spring that supply water to Baguio City and nearby areas. He claimed small miners, commercial vegetable gardens and government road constructions have caused damage to the environment in the area.
Gov. Nestor Fongwan welcomed news that the court will proceed with the hearings and said people who inflict damage on the environment should be penalized to set an example for others.
“We will keep our fingers crossed and allow the judicial proceedings to push through with the hope that the preservation and protection of the environment should be upheld over and above other personal and political interests,” Fongwan said.
Cleo Andrada, legal counsel of the provincial environmental office, said the amicable settlement did not push through because Aliping failed to submit a list of concrete actions he would take to rehabilitate the damage areas.
“We found out that the burden of rehabilitating the forest reservation was totally placed on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. There was no detailed proposal that will be undertaken by the camp of Aliping to rehabilitate the damage to the reservation,” Andrada said.
Aliping said he also wanted a full-blown court hearing so the lapses of concerned government agencies will be exposed and he will present evidence that will illustrate their negligence that led to the damages inside the watershed.
Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines and Baguio Bishop Carlito Cenzon filed the writ of kalikasan against Aliping and the Supreme Court has remanded the case to the Court of Appeals for trial.
Environment and forestry officials have also filed criminal charges against Aliping at the Department of Justice and the Ombudsman for abuse of authority and misconduct.
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