September 29, 2023

The municipal local government unit of La Trinidad, Benguet has demolished anew six structures illegally built at the Puguis communal forest reserve on June 9. 

Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Officer Arthur Pedro said the shanties, made from light materials including plastic, tents, pine trees, and bamboos were rebuilt during the community quarantine. Some of the supposed claimants were on site along with animals. 

The view deck that was built by the municipality in 2016 and was enclosed by the claimants was on fire when government personnel arrived in the area but personnel of the Bureau of Fire Protection-La Trinidad put it out. 

The order is anchored on the earlier demolition order 004-2019 released by Mayor Romeo Salda, which covers the demolition of any illegal structures within the communal forest.

In March, authorities also conducted demolition in the area. Residential houses, pigsty, animal pens, empty tombs, and shanties, among others that were illegally built inside the communal forests were also demolished.

Pedro said the confiscated building materials would not be released to the claimants as they might use it again to go back to the forest. 

Pedro said they would beef up security in the area with the help of the La Trinidad police that will augment the three bantay gubat hired by the municipality and one forest guard employed of the DENR.  

Mayor Romeo Salda said they are eyeing to bring back the adopt-a-portion of the Puguis communal forest program to involve various agencies and organizations in the protection of the watershed.

Salda said the Police Regional Police-Cordillera also proposed to conduct trainings in the area for their personnel, who will also be tasked to secure the area from illegal activities. 

A technical working group that will give recommendations on the management plan of Puguis forest will soon be created that will include the DENR, municipal and barangay local government units, and other concerned offices for the protection and conservation of the communal forest. – Ofelia C. Empian