For, lo, he that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind, and declareth unto man what is his thought, that maketh the morning darkness, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth, The Lord, The God of hosts, is his name. (Amos 4:3)
In February, 2017 I was invited to Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Cordillera Administrative Region (DENR-CAR) by Pine Cone Movement to sit with a multi sectoral group to organize the Mount Santo Tomas Forest Reserve Council (MSTFRC). It’s main purpose of coming up with a master plan which should be an Integrated Sustainable Plan and regulate anthropogenic activities and mitigate destructive effects of the area. By Numerous meetings and consultations were done in the grassroots level and periodical meetings in the council level came up with master plan which was agreed upon by the members in Memorandum of Agreement signed last June 21, 2018.
The secretariat of the council is DENR-CAR and various agreements and implementing guidelines were reached with the community representatives, barangay leaders and the municipality of Tuba in the conduct of economic and agricultural activities as well as the inflow and outflow of construction materials. Checkpoints were established in the area manned by DENR, PNP and local counterparts. The checkpoint are key in the control of tourist that should be controlled, the inflow of construction with the purpose of minimizing additional structures and the monitoring other economic activities.
The DENR is primarily responsible for the sustainable management and development of the country’s environment and natural resources including the watershed, river basins and coastal areas by virtue of Executive order 192 s. 1987. But with the massive degradation of Mount Santo Tomas a multi sectorial participation was formed to be with DENR in this endeavor. In a way this should have been done decades ago, but a court order of May 6, 2015 has to be issued with Permanent Environmental Protection Order (PEPO) and Writ of Kalikasan and Continuing Mandamus by the Court of Appeals.
In my life time I have seen the demise of Carabobo mountain into Quinine Hill where trees, rocks and mountain was totally upturned and now we have a mountain of houses and steep narrow streets and alleys. The change in Aurora Hills similarly came, where we used the pine needles as slides down the slopes is just but a memory because we cannot even locate the spots with all the present war for space between buildings and roads. The ingenuity of the Igorots and the lowlanders had made it so, to change the landscape. So it is not a new thought and fear when people look up to Mount Santo Tomas and have some apprehensions. That if we continue to neglect our obligation to preserve our natural resources God’s curse will be upon our people and the mountains will come upon us.
I have fond memories of Mount Santo Tomas, for we climbed those mountains when we were in high school and during our hiking days as young professionals. And when our friends build homes in the slopes, we joined parties in their homes. But with a threatened balance of the environment those memories are pushed back into the recesses of recall because of the struggle to understand what people are doing in abusing the natural gifts and upturn God’s work into man’s work.
We are threatening our own existence for from the mountains comes our fresh air, water and natural balance, likewise a refuge from manmade problems. But how many of us realize the importance of keeping those natural mountains and would defy God and nature.