La Presa reopening in the works

THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is set to review the proposed resolution of the Provincial Board before re-opening Mt. Sto. Tomas for tourists.

During Monday’s consultation with the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer Julio Lopez, he said the decision will still depend on the orders of their national office.

Julio added the resolution will need further review and will only be changed or modified by Environment Secretary Regina Lopez.

“We cannot give a final statement on that, so far the central office has the directive on the resolution. Until it has been evaluated or the secretary herself has given orders, PENRO will still have to stick to the existing order which was issued earlier,” Julio said.

In 2015, the Court of Appeals’ Permanent Environment Protection Order (PEPO) resulted to the closure of the area particularly "La Presa", which was frequented by tourists.

Julio however said a Temporary Management Plan (TMP) will be created in a bid answer to the Provincial Board's request.

“Penro will still be creating a TMP which can be incorporated in the request to the DENR Central Office. We need to identify or designate particular areas which will and can only be opened for the tourist,” Lopez added.

Meanwhile, members of the Provincial Board said they will stick to their stand the PEPO does not prevent tourists from going up Mt. Sto. Tomas situated in the Municipality of Tuba.

Board member Juan Nazzaro Jr., one of the co-author of the resolution said the protection order is mainly directed to stop illegal or prohibited activities, which include tree cutting, hauling in of construction materials, carrying out of illegally cut logs, and further construction of houses or buildings in the place.

The proponents argued the order issued May of 2015 does not include the prohibition of sightseers to enter the area.

Nazarro explained the protection order then caused a domino effect to the promotion of tourism and economic growth in Benguet.

Former Tuba mayor and now board member Florencio Bentrez has also emphasized the municipality can control the tourist.

Bentrez mentioned an existing management plan of Tuba for the area was put in place during his term.

“We hope to resolve this very soon because for the past months it has been closed, it has has already killed tourism,” Bentrez said.

“Kailan pa ulit siya bubuksan, kapag nakalimutan na ng mga tao?” he added.

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