THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) recently denied the request of the Benguet provincial board to re-open Mt. Sto. Tomas in Barangay Poblacion, Tuba for tourists.
DENR Regional Director Engr. Ralph Pablo in his letter to the board said their agency does not oppose development but in order for a sustainable and meaningful development in the area to take place, they need sufficient time for the past destruction of the forest reserve to recover and heal the wounds it has incurred.
“Truly, we grasp the importance of having a robust economy to sustain the most essential objective of the local government unit to improve the lives of its constituents, nonetheless we cannot compromise on the primordial right of the people for a balanced and healthful ecology not only for these days but also for the future generations and reopening the reserve for tourists would create a situation that would prevent the advancing recuperation the site has presently attained,” said Pablo in his letter to the board.
Pablo added attracting tourists would encourage illegal mountainside farmers to expand their vegetable patches within the forest reservation and market the same as “La Presa Vegetables” to be able to corner tourists who still relieve the scenes of a television series set in Sitio Pungayan in Barangay Poblacion, Tuba.
The DENR official said in protecting Mt. Sto. Tomas, their office carefully studied all possibilities of protecting, preserving and rehabilitating the forest reserve, taking into consideration the least invasive and least destructive practice in opening the site for economic opportunities and other physical activity pursuant to the mandates of the Constitution and Permanent Environmental Protective Order (PEPO) issued by the Court of Appeals.
In addition, Pablo added the final master plan for the rehabilitation of Mt. Sto. Tomas will soon be ready and will be presented to stakeholders before the year ends.
Benguet board member Juan Nazarro Jr. earlier filed a resolution seeking appeal to DENR top re-open the forest reserve to encourage economic and tourism boost in the province.
The DENR has also filed cases against illegal settlers within the Mt. Santo Tomas forest reserve.
A Temporary Protection Order was earlier issued after former Baguio Representative Nicasio Aliping allegedly cut hundreds of trees in his supposed property inside the forest reserve while Baguio – Benguet Bishop Carlito Cenzon also filed for a Writ of Kalikasan to protect the watershed.