By KIMBERLIE NGABIT QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY – Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Cordillera blames local governments for incursions in forest reserves and protected areas.
Director Ralph Pablo of DENR Cordillera said that the continued issuances of tax declarations by LGUs led to land conversions within forest reserves and protected areas.
“It is a criminal act to issue tax declarations within forest reservations, and local officials are aware of this but still,” Pablo said.
Pablo stressed that the law specifies that tax declarations can only be issued over alienable and disposable lands. “To local governments, issuance of tax declarations means additional income but what about the impact to the environment,” Pablo added.
Pablo said holders of tax declarations also believe that they own the land when in fact they are only given the right to utilize the land. He said that tax declarations are not land titles and does not change the classification of the land. He said that conversion of forest areas into vegetable gardens and housing are among major threats in the Cordillera.
Pablo cited as example the Mount Sto. Tomas Reservation where hundreds of tax declarations were issued.
“The court through the Writ already ordered the cancellation of tax declarations but there are no cancellations yet,” Pablo said.
It can be recalled that former Baguio Congressman Nicasio Aliping is facing charges for killing trees while developing a road leading to his property within the Mt. Santo Tomas reservation. Aside from Aliping; vegetable gardens, business establishments, towers of telecommunications took over substantial portions of the reservation.
Mt. Sto. Tomas is also a tourist destination until the Writ of Kalikasan barred tourists from entering the mountain. # nordis.net