TUBA, Benguet – Benguet caretaker congressman and Anti-Crime and Terrorism through Community Involvement and Support (ACT-CIS) Party-list Rep. Eric Yap called on the Cordillera office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR-CAR) to ease the restrictions within the Mount Sto. Tomas area following a recent dialogue with residents in the said area.
Yap had a chance to personally visit the area and talked with residents who raised some pressing issues such as the absence of sustainable economic activities, people not allowed to repair their houses even after experiencing weather disturbances and other natural disasters, including the failure of the houses to have electrical connections, among others.
“I had the chance of visiting the famous Mount Sto. Tomas area and held an informal dialogue with some of the residents in the place. We’ve been consistently hearing their predicaments over the past few years brought about by the issuance of the writ of kalikasan in 2015 but it was not until last week when I witnessed first hand how their lives were miserably affected by the writ,” Yap stressed.
The lawmaker then wrote to DENR-CAR regional director Ralph Pablo to convey the serious concerns of the residents that need immediate action by the agency.
“Isa sa mga immediate needs sana nila is yung legitimate source ng kuryente. Imagine, walang kuryente yung mga bahay doon para sa mga essential needs nila at mga batang nag-aaral online. Hindi tama, kaya tayo nakipag-coordinate sa DENR para mabigyan sila ng clearance na makapag-apply ng power source for the households,” he added.
According to Yap’s letter to Pablo, the rationale for the issuance of the order is to ensure environmental protection and it does not, in any way or form, remove the rights of the residents to decent living condition.
“I formally appeal to your office to immediately issue a clearance certificate that will allow the installation of power supply in existing households for humanitarian reasons. There were efforts made by the residents in the past but it went to naught with the department citing the writ of kalikasan issuance,” Congressman Yap quipped.
Further, he claimed that numerous areas similar to the terrain of Mount Sto. Tomas were allowed to be developed; hence, residents of the place should also be given consideration to have a chance of having a decent living condition.
“Maraming problema yung mga kababayan natin dun. Walang school para sa mga bata kasi bawal magpatayo, walang economic activities, walang kuryente, ang hirap ng access sa social services. It will take a much bigger effort pero we will do our best to relax the implementation and enforcement sana to ensure yung rights to decent living conditions ng mga residents dun. Ilang dekada na sila nandun, tapos bilang tinanggalan sila ng karapatan. Maling mali,” the congressman stipulated.
He expressed hope that the DENR-CAR leadership will heed the call of the people in the area for them to be able to apply for electrical connections to their residences to avoid the proliferation of flying connections in the said place.