Issue of June 1, 2014
Mt. Province

63rd Courier Anniversary Issue
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Mt Kabuyao diggings seen to defile springs
by Hanna C. Lacsamana

Benguet officials have ordered a halt in the massive land development project in Mt. Kabuyao in Tuba, which is blamed for the contamination of water sources supplying the requirements of Marcos Highway and parts of Tuba.

Gov. Nestor Fongwan and Tuba Mayor Florencio Bentrez ordered the property owner, through Baguio City Rep. Nicasio Aliping Jr., to stop the project implementation after several water sources used by the Baguio Water District were severely contaminated and closed as these were declared unsafe for consumption.

The project, which involves construction of a road reportedly leading to a planned eco-park, is owned by a brother of the Baguio solon.

Site inspections done by BWD officials and teams from the Environment Management Bureau and Non-Revenue Water Management since last month until last week revealed massive cutting of trees and bulldozing and excavation activities, sans environmental compliance certificate (ECC).

Aliping, in a letter dated May 21, assured the Tuba mayor he is undertaking and instituting measures to avoid further damage to the plants, trees, and springs and dam 3 of the BWD.

Aliping’s letter was in response to Bentrez’ May 15 letter requesting the solon to institute measures to avoid further damages to the water sources.

Last May 27, Bentrez again wrote Aliping enjoining him to temporarily stop the activities until such time all requirements are complied with and mitigating measures are implemented.

Last month, an initial inspection was conducted after there was an observed turbidity of water supply at BWD’s Dam 3 at Amliang and spring No. 3 at stage 1 in Tuba.

On May 13, BWD General Manager Salvador Royeca wrote Benguet Gov. Nestor Fongwan, raising alarm over the serious threats of the continued turbidity, contamination, and erosion that may ultimately totally damage and render the water sources unsafe for human consumption. He also requested for the governor’s assistance to regulate or prevent the activities to protect and conserve the vital water sources.

Fongwan wrote Department of Environment and Natural Resources OIC Regional Director Paquito Moreno and the Tuba mayor calling their attention on the matter.

DENR personnel who were part of an inspection team last May 23 said the project has not been issued an ECC.

Royeca said springs 1, 2, and 3 are all contaminated as a result of the excavated soil, boulders, debris, and several cut trees that flowed to the water sources.

The BWD board said it is not against any development, but only when these are exercised with caution and measures are in place to avoid detrimental effects to the environment.

Aside from the land development project affecting water sources in Mt. Kabuyao, the unabated tree cutting and expansion of commercial vegetable farms in Sto. Tomas also contribute to the contamination of water sources supplying Baguio and Tuba.

Sources at the Benguet Capitol said Tuba is preparing documents to remind concerned agencies on the need to protect Mt. Sto. Tomas.

“Before that tree cutting, one of our serious concerns is that vast track of lands at Sto. Tomas were converted into private vegetable farms while we also received reports of tree cutting activities for private purposes despite it being a forest reserve,” said a Capitol official.

In February 2012, Fongwan ordered the DENR to investigate and file charges against those behind the killing and burning of over a thousand trees in Sto. Tomas forest reserve.

Fongwan and his staff personally witnessed the poor state of the pine trees, when he hiked the highest mountain overlooking Baguio.

The girdling inflicted on the pine trees appeared to be intentional and deliberate in order to ensure death on the trees once the area is set on fire.

Sto. Tomas has not been inhabited since the early ‘70s.

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