BAGUIO CITY – Re-electionist Rep. Nicasio M. Aliping, Jr. and three property developers were recommended for indictment by the Office of the Ombudsman for the alleged massive illegal cutting of trees at sitio Pungayan, Pobalcion, Tuba, Benguet, within the Mount Sto. Tomas forest reservation sometime in Aopril 2014.
Aliping together with William Go of Goldrich Construction, Bernard Capuyan BLC Construction and Aggregates Development Corporation and Romeo Aquino of RUAquino Construction and Development Corporation, are facing trial before the Sandiganbayan for violation of Sections 77 and 78 of the Revised Forestry Code for the illegal cutting of at least 763 fully grown trees and saplings within the forest reservation that paved the way for the construction of a 2.6-kilometer road leading to his alleged property in the area.
Investigation spearheaded by the Environmental Ombudsman found that in April 2014, Aliping conducted earth moving activities using heavy equipment that resulted to the uprooting of 293 pine trees, with 415 Benguet pine tree samplings damaged. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) estimated the total damage at P10.3million.
It was also found that “the cause of the turbidity of the water supply was due to the massive land development within and around the property of Aliping,” the Ombudsman decision stated.
The DENR, as complainant, added that “Mt. Sto. Tomas was declared forest reserve, thus it cannot be converted into private property,” contrary to Aliping’s defense that he bought his property from several ancestral claimants although he was not able to transfer the tax declarations to his name.
Representative Aliping admitted that no permits had been issued for the earth moving activities and no documents were presented showing ownership over the property, contrary to the lawful requirements that individuals or groups wanting to cut trees must first secure the appropriate permits from concerned government agencies.
Aliping undertook the activities through the construction corporations owned by Go, Capuyan and Aquino.
According to the Ombudsman, “it is clear as daylight that the cutting of trees and other earthmoving activities were done without authority” as “Aliping’s use of the three backhoes/heavy equipment in his earthmoving activity is undisputed.”
Under the Revised Forestry Code, it is illegal for any person to cut, gather, collect, remove timber or other forest products from forest land, without any authority.
It will be recalled that in 2012, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales revitalized the Environmental Ombudsman that handles complaints involving violations of environmental laws committed by public officials and employees. Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon Gerard Mosquera concurrently serves as the Environmental Ombudsman.
The case is expected to be raffled by the Sandinganbayan for the subsequent issuance of the appropriate warrants of arrest against the accused in one of the celebrated environmental cases in Baguio and Benguet over the past several years.
By Herald Express News Team