Puguis squatting averted

SPEEDY action of the government averted another attempt by an illegal settler to build a shanty near the protected Puguis Communal Forest in La Trinidad, Benguet.

Representatives of the Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office (MENRO), Municipal Engineering Office, and La Trinidad Municipal Police Station responded to a call by a forest guard Thursday morning following an attempt by settlers to build in the area.

Authorities were able to prevent a group of laborers spearheaded by land claimant Mateo Mathias, who later on presented alleged documents of ownership over the land.

Mathias and his team were on the act of building a shanty at the site. “We have to put up a shanty so that we can declare improvements and ownership in the property,” he said.

In his defense Mathias said “I went to the municipal hall and the employees said I do not need necessary documents for building a shanty.”
The preventive measure was conducted prior to the survey of proposed additional 9.5 hectares, where Mathias targeted to build his shanty, outside the 48 hectare protected forest.

The Mathias structure has promptly dismantled by his team under the supervision of local authorities.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources, La Trinidad, and land claimants earlier agreed to maintain status quo within the forest to ensure peace and order and prevent further destruction in the area while waiting for the legal cases to be resolved and ongoing joint survey to be done.

This means ongoing activities like clearing, construction of illegal structures and illegal tree cutting should be stopped and no new developments should be introduced.

In December last year, DENR-Cordillera filed a case against land claimants within the Puguis communal forest for disregard and violation of existing laws by building permanent and temporary structures and illegally cutting trees in the area.

La Trinidad has firmly claimed the area believing it is part of the forest.

“As of now, the municipality is entitled to protect the area against other alleged claims inside the forest. We have to stop them from developing from these activities,” said MENRO Officer Arthur Pedro.
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