MEMBERS of the Benguet board are eyeing to re-open Mt. Sto. Tomas for tourists.
A resolution recently passed on first reading requesting the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to allow tourist to visit the mountain located in Barangay Poblacion, Tuba.
Proponent Juan Nazarro Jr. said the appeal is being pitched to encourage economic and tourism boost in the province.
Nazarro said the Court of Appeals' Permanent Environment Protection Order (PEPO) should at least consider its judgment to ban tourist to visit the Sto. Tomas area.
"The PEPO is mainly directed to stop illegal or prohibited activities which damage the environment-protected area, however it should or it does not really prohibit the coming or visiting of tourists," Nazzaro said.
In his resolution, Nazarro argued the order issued May 2015 does not include the prohibition of sightseers to enter Mt. Sto. Tomas.
Nazarro explained the closure only limited the expansion of promoting tourism and economic growth in Benguet.
It was further mentioned the existing PEPO has caused a domino effect decreasing the income not only of the residents but also the barangays surrounding the area.
“We are suggesting inviting more tourists and sightseers. Basically we should not kill the tourism for the province rather improve it and ensure that it will be sustained,” Nazarro added.
The official added a concrete management plan should be readied to ensure that tourism for Mt. Sto. Tomas will be beneficial.
“A good management plan will be prepared. We will see to it that it will be preserved as is, the market or trading of business might be suggested to be placed outside the mountain, before entry going to the top,” Nazarro said.
“We should not waste the opportunity the province has. Why should we sacrifice the people of Benguet for the fault acted upon by few,” he added.
The PEPO was issued following the investigation made after a resort owned by former Baguio City representative Nicasio Aliping Jr. was discovered built atop the forest reserve.
The court said the construction of the resort and the road leading to it was causing soil erosion and siltation in the Amliang Dam, which is a water source not only for Tuba but also in nearby Baguio City.
Mt. Sto. Tomas became an instant tourist attraction when it became the setting of a hit television series, which offers scenic landscapes showcasing Baguio and Benguet's vast mountainside farms, and other sites including a life size stations of the cross.