November 26, 2022

The La Trinidad Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office led the fencing of a portion of the Shilan communal forest to keep a developer from further encroaching the forest.

Together with the Shilan barangay officials and staff, concerned residents, barangay ENRO personnel, La Trinidad Municipal Police Station and the Benguet Second Provincial Mobile Force Company, the joint fencing operation was carried out on Dec. 23 at the portion of the 44-hectare forest located at Sitio Jappa.

Menro Arthur Pedro said the developer, identified as Florante Bantales Jr., has developed a 500-square meter portion of the forest, as a parking area for heavy equipment despite the cease and desist order of Mayor Romeo Salda in November.

Pedro said the local government unit has also issued several notices of violation to the earthmoving and backfilling activities of Bantales but crew continued developing the site.

He said the municipal government also filed an environmental cases against Bantales for developing and constructing a house and motorpool within the Shilan communal forest.

The subject area, which is estimated to be at 1,000 square meters, is just a few meters away from the fenced off property.

The private developer started developing the 1,000-square meter area in 2019 and built a house in 2020.

He added that affected residents of Sitio Jappa alerted the local government in November when the developer started dumping soil and leveling the fenced off 500-square meter area.

“The residents fear that their water source would be adversely affected by the earthmoving activities,” Pedro said.

Pedro further said that Bantales, a known contractor in the province secured a sub-contractual work of the widening project on the portion of the Shilan-Lamut-Beckel road. The portions of the communal forest he developed are along the portion of the road he worked on. – Ofelia C. Empian