BONTOC, Mountain Province November 18 – The Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 35 granted the petition of concerned residents of Sabangan for the issuance of a permanent environment protection order (PEPO) against identified individuals who have been granted tax declarations and have been converting the Batacang forest reservation into vegetable gardens among others.
In a 5-page order, Judge Joseph Patnaan ordered the Cordillera office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR-CAR), Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CEnRO) in Sabangan to stop and prevent the private respondents and anybody acting in their behalf from converting the portions of the forest zone covered by their tax declaration at Am-amoting, Ambango in Batacang/Obuainto vegetable farms, from engaging in any other illegal activities including cutting of trees, kaining, earthmoving and land conversion activities, from using chemical fertilizers, insecticides, pesticides and other substances that pollute the soil, water and air.
The court also ordered the concerned government agencies to cause the planting of trees in the denuded portions of the reservation for the rehabilitation of the area damaged by the earthmoving and bulldozing activities.
Patacang ordered the government agencies to guard and patrol the subject area to prevent the repetition of illegal and destructive activities and cause the apprehension and prosecution of all violators.
The DENR-CAR and CENRO Sabangan were required by the court to perform all needed measures to ensure the protection and preservation of the environment.
Likewise, the court ordered the Punong Barangay of Data, Sabangan to perform his mandated obligations to actively participate in the environmental management and protection programs of the government, to render assistance in the enforcement of environmental laws and in the apprehension of the violators of the existing order.
The court stated the temporary environment protection order earlier issued will be made permanent and an environmental protection order was issued and the private respondents were ordered to cease and desist from bulldozing, cultivating and introducing improvements and other earthmoving activities that cause irreparable damage to the forest zone, from cutting trees, engaging in kaingin and other illegal activities, from causing pollution in any way of the soil, water and the environment and from claiming private ownership over the communal forest of Batacang and Am-amoting covered by their tax declarations.
The court added the private respondents were ordered to immediately remove their barbed wire fences that restrict the community from use and enjoyment of the communal forest zone.
Further, the court directed the provincial assessor and municipal assessor of Sabangan to cease and desist from issuing tax declarations without compliance with the provisions of Section 84 of Presidential Decree 705 or the Forestry Reform Code of the Philippines and other related laws, rules and regulations and when appropriate, cause the immediate cancellation of he issued tax declarations of the private respondents over the subject area at Batacang, Am-amoting, Amango, Ubua, Data, sabangan, Mountain Province.
The court required the DENR-CAR and CENRO Sabangan to submit quarterly reports of actions and measures undertaken by their respective agencies and offices in accordance with the judgement.
The court stated the acts of the concerned government agencies in merely monitoring and investigation violations, putting up signages lie no cutting of trees without being watchful so that it will be obeyed, filing and not pursuing in earnest a case, just telling the violator to stop and not knowing that pine and alnus trees were cut, and not patrolling and guarding the timberland of forest zone, approximate actionable neglect which would justify the issuance of the writ of continuing mandamus.
Earlier, concerned residents in the place petitioned the local court to issue the appropriate temporary and permanent protection orders among other relief warranted by the court to stop the continuous destruction of the aforesaid forest reservation by the individuals that were able to acquire tax declarations over portions of the said forest zone which was previously identified as communal forest.