The Office of the Ombudsman ordered the filing of charges before the Sandiganbayan against Baguio City Rep. Nicasio Aliping Jr. and three others in connection with the illegal cutting of trees and forest destruction in Tuba, Benguet.
A statement issued by the Ombudsman on Wednesday said that Aliping, with William Go, Bernard Capuyan and Romeo Aquino are facing charges for violation of Sections 77 and 78 of the Revised Forestry Code.
In April 2014, the Environmental Ombudsman found that Aliping allegedly conducted earthmoving activities in Sitio Pongayon, Santo Tomas in Tuba using heavy equipment that resulted in the uprooting of 293 pine trees. Also, 415 Benguet pine tree saplings were damaged.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) estimated the total damage at P10.3 million.
The alleged illegal activity also threatened water safety in the area and it was found that “the cause of the turbidity of the water supply [was due]to the massive land development within and around the property of Aliping,” the Ombudsman said.
The DENR said that “Mt. Sto. Tomas was declared forest reserve, thus it cannot be converted into private property.”
According to the Ombudsman, Aliping – who allegedly undertook the activities through the construction corporations owned by Go, Capuyan, and Aquino – admitted that no permits were issued for the earthmoving activities, and no documents were presented showing ownership over the property.
The Revised Forestry Code punishes anyone “who shall cut, gather and/or collect timber or other forest products from forest land without any authority.”