Friday, March 20, 2015

Baguio City Congressman Nicasio Aliping Jr. Maintains Innocence Over Mt. Santo Tomas Issue

About a week ago, the Department of Justice held Baguio City Congressman Nicasio Aliping Jr. and three contractors liable for the illegal cutting and excavation done in Mt. Santo Tomas last year. The department came up with a resolution endorsing the case to the Office of the Environmental Ombudsman. It can be recalled that 14 employees of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) filed charges against the lawmaker for violating Presidential Decree 705.

However, those optimistic that the hundreds of trees burned and cut down in the slopes of Mount Santo Tomas will finally be bestowed the kind of justice they deserve will have to lower down the victory flag for a bit.

The embattled solon is maintaining his innocence. Aliping told the local paper Sun Star Baguio that his hands are clean and that he isn't responsible for the wanton scathing of the protected forest reservation. The paper quoted the Congressman saying, "We maintain our innocence on the charges and let due process take its course."

The damaged slopes of Mt. Sto. Tomas was talk of the town last year. Not only were trees burned and cut down, portions of the mountain were also excavated using heavy machinery to build a road. This is not to mention the pollution of the Amliang Creek due to debris and mud coming from the exposed slopes.

In July last year, I joined a tree planting activity there organized by the Cordillera Conservation Trust (CCT). And I saw firsthand what has been done to a significant portion of the mountain. I can't describe in words what I and dozens of other tree planters saw in the area when we went there. So I'll just let the photos below speak for themselves. I took these photos during the tree planting activity.

So it boils down to this. Somebody is responsible for this. Somebody drove the bulldozers to dig the earth. Somebody held the chainsaws that cut the trees. Somebody ignited the fires that burned some of the trees.

Aliping is maintaining his defense that he did not do it. So who did? Who else has the manpower and the resources to pull off something like this? The case is now in the hands of the Office of the Environmental Ombudsman. Meanwhile, we wait.