THE Supreme Court on Tuesday halted a government road project at the Mount Santo Tomas watershed in Tuba, Benguet for contaminating the water supply in the area.
During a full court session presided by Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio, the High Court issued a temporary environmental protection order (TEPO) stopping the implementation of the road construction project of Baguio Rep. Nicasio Aliping.
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is in South Korea with her husband Mario Sereno attending a conference along with Justices Jose Perez and Estela Perlas-Bernabe.
The TEPO was issued in view of the petition writ of Kalikasan petition filed by Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas.
The petition cited that the project has caused the contamination of the Amliang dams used to impound fresh spring water supply for Baguio City residents.
The High Court also asked Aliping, Tuba Mayor Florencio Bentrez, Tuba Police Chief Inspector William Willie, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and several other provincial environment officials to file their response to the petition.
In the meantime, the SC en banc also ordered that the case be referred to the Court of Appeals (CA) for hearing and disposition of the case.
The petitioners argued that the project “has disturbed the stability of mountain slope resulting in massive landslides which are aggravated by rains”.
It was alleged that the road construction from Mount Kabuyao highway to Sitio Amliang and Sitio Bekel of Poblacion, Tuba had resulted in the cutting of 306 trees and 455 saplings which destroyed the environment.
The petitioners also asked the 15-man tribunal to order the res-pondents to lessen the contamination of the Amliang dams due to the erosion emanating from his road-opening project.
With this, the SC was asked to order the Tuba local government to cease and desist from accepting applications for issuance of tax declarations on lands within the forest reserve.
The prelate also appealed that the DENR be ordered to take long term measures to protect Mount Santo Tomas against activities detrimental to the environment.