Benguet folk ok ESL but not in watershed area

By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
www.nordis.net

BAGUIO CITY — Residents along the Philex-Kias road and those above and below the proposed area for an engineered sanitary landfill (ESL) in Ampucao village of Itogon, Benguet Province said they want an engineered sanitary landfill (ESL) but not within their watershed.

In a letter to President Rodrigo Duterte and Secretary Roy Cimatu of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the residents clarified that “we are not against the the engineered sanitary landfill as it is mandated by law but we are against the proposed area.”

The residents pointed out that the area identified in sitio Tapak in Ampucao village is covered with fully grown Benguet pine trees and saplings and is a watershed to several creeks and rivers that feed the San Roque multipurpose dam. They added that adjacent communities of Pangasinan province also rely on these creeks and rivers for domestic water needs.

They also said that should the ESL be contructed it would pose adverse effects to Ampucao’s eco-tourism program.

Ampucao residents found a new source of livelihood after Mt. Ulap gained popularity and became a favorite destination for hikers and backpackers.

The residents said that the proposed ESL area is just below Mt. Ulap. They said that more than destroying the view, the ESL would pose danger to health of both residents and visitors alike. They added that the ESL also poses the danger of contaminating undeground and surface water sources.

The residents claimed that the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) has already endorsed the proposed ESL project and has recommended the delisting of the area from NIPAS and the segregation from the LAWFR.

Director Ralph Pablo of DENR-CAR in a phone interview said he is not aware of the PAMB resolution endorsing the ESL project and asking for the delisting and segrgation of the area.

Pablo said that the DENR shares the sentiment of the residents who wrote the president and DENR secretary.

“The area identified in Ampucao is within a forest reservation, a water source at that, an ESL within a watershed seems to be out of place,” Pablo said.

Pablo reiterated that forest laws do not allow the construction of an ESL within a forest reservation.

Director Reynaldo Digamo of the Environmental Management Bureaue (EMB) in a separate interview said that instead of “touching the undisturbed area” in Ampucao, the proponents of the ESL should consider the Antamok area.

Digamo was referring to the old tailings dam that leaked November last year discharging mine tails into the Liang River.

“The Antamok area has already been disturbed and the contruction of the ESL could be undertaken as part of the rehabilitation program of the old tailings pond,” Digamo said. # nordis.net

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