BAUKO, Mountain Province – Municipal officials and religious leaders in this municipality have finalized and are set to file a petition for writ of kaliksasan against concerned government agencies and the towns of Buguias and Mankayan to prevent the massive commercial vegetable gardens within the undisturbed portions of the Mount Data forest reservation that are within the town’s jurisdiction.
Petitioners in the writ of kalikasan are Mayor Abraham B. Akilit, Prime Bishop Renato Abibico of the Episcopal Church, Bishop Harry Brent Alawas, Ruscela Tugade, Bernard Dicawan, Paulino Malinias, Hames Mayona, Cornelio Mathias, Irene Bacangan, Fr. Jerry Sagayo, Josei Ampal, Ben Awakan and Beatriz Pana.
Named respondents in the case are Buguias Mayor Melchor Diclas, Mankayan Mayor Materno Lospian, Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer (PENRO) Mountain Province Manuel Poguiyed, PENRO Benguet Octavio Cuanzo, CENRO Sabangan Manuel Poguiyed, CENRO Sabangan Moises Cabatan, provincial assessors of Mountain Province and Benguet, municipal assessors of Buguias, Mankayan and Bauko, provincial police directors of Mountain Province and Benguet and chiefs of police of Mankayan, Buguias and Bauko and hundreds of commercial vegetable farm owners in the Mount Data area.
Mayor Akilit said the petition for writ of kalikasan must already be filed so that it will be the courts that will issue the appropriate orders to stop unscrupulous vegetable farm owners from intruding into the undisturbed portions of the reservation that are mostly within the jurisdiction of the town because people concerned refuse to listen to repeated appeals from them to to spare the remaining portions of the watershed from their enterprising activities.
“We already made proper representations with concerned government agencies and local governments to help in stopping the unabated expansion of commercial vegetable farms into hundreds of hectares of undisturbed portions of the Mount Data watershed which are within our town’s jurisdiction but they still continue with their activities damaging the state of our environment,” Akilit stressed.
He expressed disappointment why law enforcers and concerned government agency officials and representatives as well as host communities cannot stop the owners of commercial vegetable farms from using mechanized units of equipment in ravaging the state of the environment.
According to him, backhoes, bulldozers among others are used to bar down trees and flatten mountain slopes in a short span of time to pave the way for commercial vegetable farm owners into increasing the land area of their farms to ensure continuous increase in their income at the expense of concerned individuals fighting for the preservation and protection of the environment.
The local chief executive added he cannot understand the attitude of people living within the watershed as they prefer to destroy the forest reservation instead of preserving and protecting it through agro-forestry interventions which would guarantee them additional income while protecting the forests from extensive damage for the benefit of the present and future generations.
Bauko hosts a huge portion of the Mount Data watershed and it is only within its jurisdiction that forested areas are found compared to other municipalities that their mountains were already denuded and were converted into mountain slope terraces beneficial to the interest of the vegetable farm owners.
One of the prayers of the petitioners is for the court to order the cancellation of all tax declarations issued by the different municipal assessor’s offices over portions of the Mount Data watershed considering that Mount Data remains a watershed and tax declarations are not conclusive proofs of ownership.
The religious leaders of the municipality who signed the petition illustrate the multi-sectoral support to uncompromising efforts of the municipal government to preserve and protect the remaining pine stand of the Cordillera for the benefit of the present and future generation of Igorots living in the area.
Mount Data strands from Tublay in Benguet up to the capital town of Bontoc, Mountain Province but forested communities are only found in the jurisdiction of Bauko which has a total land area of 18,000 hectares with a growing population of 34,000.
By Dexter A. See