Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Did Congressman Nicasio Aliping Jr. Knowingly Allow The Cutting Of Hundreds Of Trees In Mt. Sto. Tomas?

First things first, Baguio City Congressman Nicasio Aliping Jr. is a lawyer. He was associate attorney for the Pablito Law Office from 1995 to 1996. From 1996 to the present, he's a senior attorney for the Aliping Law Office. That said, we can assume that he knows the law. That you can't cut hundreds of trees in a forest reserve without an environmental compliance certificate from the Environment Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. That you can't excavate through a mountain side without an excavation permit.

Yet, most of the reports from the media ever since the story broke out paints a different picture. The EMB has not issued any environmental compliance certificate nor excavation permit.  Hundreds of trees were cut, stretches of the earth were excavated opening them up for possible massive erosion, and a dam of the Baguio Water District was polluted. Two springs were completely covered by boulders and soil from the excavations. All these crimes against the environment were committed and Baguio's Congressman had a part in it.

Rubbing salt to the wounds, Aliping remains mum about the matter. Although it still is not 100% clear that he was behind the cutting and the excavation, the current evidence points to him. He wrote and signed a letter in May 21, the recipient of which is Tuba Mayor Florencio Bentrez. Below are a couple of excerpts from said letter:
Photo by Cordi Eco-Center Pine Tree via Facebook
"Please be informed that the undersigned is undertaking and instituting measures to avoid further damage to the plants, trees, and dam 3 of the Baguio Water District."

"...Hon. Nic M. Aliping Jr., claimant-applicant, has applied for an excavation permit over his claims covered by ARP Nos. 99-001-05853 and 99-001-05854. The application letter mentioned that a proposed road will be excavated leading to the said claims."

Aliping wrote and sent said letter. So he knew that there was cutting and excavation being done. If that's not evidence of his hand in the environmental atrocities committed, then what is? Aliping has also admitted that he owns property in the area and that he has an ongoing project there.

It can also be recalled that when the news broke out, Aliping's initial defense was that the man behind the project which warranted the cutting of trees is his brother who is based in the United States. Notice the inconsistencies here? Aliping really can't be blamed for currently remaining mum about the matter. But this is an issue he can't escape (well, at least, we believe so). The odds are against him and he knows it. He played a major part in the destruction of a forest reserve which happens to be a source of water for the very city he serves. It's also worth mentioning here that on the campaign leading up to his election, Aliping championed environmental protection and preservation. If the allegations against him are true, then he is doing the opposite of what he championed. He HAS to pay for what he has done.

Aliping is not the only one to blame here. The EMB, the DENR, and the Tuba municipal government are partly responsible here. It's difficult to point fingers at them for they weren't directly holding the chainsaws that cut the trees and driving the bulldozers that excavated the mountain slopes. However, it's also difficult not to think that there wasn't incompetence on their part. Bulldozers rampaged in your backyard. Chainsaws felled tree after tree. And you only knew about it when everything's already too late?