September 25, 2023

BONTOC, Mountain Province – Owners of illegal structures within the easement area of the Chico River were given 30 days to dismantle their structures and immediately vacate the area.

Members of the Provincial Natural Waterways Clearing Task Force gave the notice during an onsite visit Oct. 15 at the Chico River bank.

The team was supposed to start clearing operations but allowed the owners to voluntarily vacate the area within 30 days.

Engr. Alexander Castañeda of the Department of Public Works and Highways First Engineering District said his office wills give notices to the concerned individuals to reiterate an earlier letter urging them to demolish their structures.

“It’s time to clear the banks of all waterways. Aside from the national laws mandating us to do this, experiences during past typhoons would also urge us to do so. Let us not wait until something happens before we act,” Castañeda said.

Interior and Local Government Provincial Director Anthony Manolo Ballug, who co-chairs the task force, said demolishing the illegal structures is for the interest of the public.

Aside from the illegal structures, the task force also warned contractors quarrying along the Chico River to abide by the restrictions imposed by law.

Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer Joel Behis said quarrying within 300 meters from bridges is strictly prohibited.

In his report to the task force, Behis said of the six contractors extracting quarry materials along the central Bontoc stretch of the Chico River, only two were given permit by the provincial government.

Provincial Planning Officer Daniel Likigan said signages should be put up to mark areas where quarrying is not allowed. It was learned that markers were erected but were dismantled by unscrupulous individuals.

Provincial Police Director Homer Penecilla deployed police officers to secure the supposed clearing operations.

Gov. Bonifacio Lacwasan, task force chair, called on the owners of the illegal structures not to personally take the clearing operations against any member of the task force.

“They are just doing their duty. I hope we will all understand that and cooperate,” Lacwasan said. – Angel B. Baybay