December 6, 2022

A local court has been asked to issue a temporary environmental protection order (TEPO) against Pines City Doctors Hospital (PCDH) and its representatives over its property development following the mudflow that caused flooding at Km. 4, La Trinidad, Benguet last month.
La Trinidad Mayor Romeo Salda, Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Officer-Designate Arthur Pedro, and Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Officer Yoshio Labi lodged the complaint before the Benguet Regional Trial Court Branch 4 on Aug. 4 against PCDH; Antonio Anaban, Jr.; and others who represent the company.
The municipal government is also seeking for the issuance of a permanent environment protection order for the whole area of Sitio Cogcoga, Pico and the Balili River.
A large volume of muddy water and rocks from the vicinity of the mountainous part of Upper Cogcoga flowed to the Halsema Highway from Km. 3 to 4 at the height of Typhoon Fabian, causing flashflood, rendering a portion of the highway impassable for vehicles, and causing heavy traffic in the area.
Municipal employees, police personnel, public works and highways workers, and volunteers helped in the clearing operation for almost two weeks due to the monsoon rains.  
Citing the joint inspection report from the Municipal Engineering Office and Municipal Planning and Development Office, the complaint stated the PCDH property currently being developed is an environmentally-critical area since portions of the property have critical slopes and are prone to landslide. 
“The mudflow and flooding have caused damage to the environment in Cogcoga. As it is now rainy season, should a typhoon with heavy rain again enter La Trinidad, the excavated earth at Upper Cogcoga, which is the result of the activities of the defendants, would flow down again,” the complaint stated.
“This surely would cause environmental damage. Worse, larger landslide may happen which may cause destruction to properties and even death to residents.”
The complaint also stated no locational clearance and environmental compliance certificate was issued to PCDH.
If a TEPO is issued by the court, the petitioners asked that PCDH be ordered to make remedial and mitigating measures to prevent landslides and accumulation of large volume of water in its catchment basins and to prevent debris from flowing down to the lower portion of Cogcoga.
They also asked the court to order the Police Regional Office-Cordillera and the Environment Management Bureau-Cordillera to implement the TEPO with the municipal government.
The petitioners also asked the court to order the defendants to pay the municipality P5 million for the expenses during the clearing operation on July 23 and the subsequent days and to pay actual or nominal damages of at least P1M.
Copies of the complaint were also furnished to the Solicitor General and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. – Ofelia C. Empian