CA stops shooting of soap operas at Benguet forest reserve | Inquirer Entertainment

CA stops shooting of soap operas at Benguet forest reserve

TUBA, Benguet, Philippines — The Court of Appeals has ordered Mayor Florencio Bentrez to stop people from settling, farming, mining and even filming “teleserye” (soap operas) at the Mt. Sto. Tomas forest reservation, through a Writ of Kalikasan which made permanent the court’s environmental protection order over the watershed.

The writ, issued on May 6, was requested by residents of Tuba, neighboring Baguio City and San Fabian town in Pangasinan, following the discovery of an illegal road excavation through forested Mt. Cabuyao last year. The petitioners were led by Baguio Bishop Carlito Cenzon and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas.


The writ directed Baguio Rep. Nicasio Aliping Jr. to rehabilitate the mountain side damaged by a road excavation and to stop developing vegetable farms he intended to convert into an ecological resort.

Copies of the writ have not reached the petitioners, said their lawyer, Francesca Claver. But the writ has been posted on the CA’s website.


The writ said Bentrez must “cease and desist from issuing any and all kinds of permit to conduct activities within the Mt. Sto. Tomas forest reserve, including but not limited to the operation of businesses therein and utilizing any area for filming movies and television shows, without clearance from the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources), and to cancel the permits already issued.”

It was an apparent reference to a TV production shot on location at Sitio Pungayan in Tuba’s Poblacion village on Mt. Sto. Tomas.

Scenes in the fictional farming community of “La Presa” in ABS-CBN’s teleserye, “Forevermore,” was shot at Pungayan, drawing an unprecedented number of tourists to Mt. Sto Tomas starting last year. The show’s popularity also led to growth of businesses along the roads leading to the area.

On Wednesday, Bentrez said he would stop future development plans at the reservation and would cancel all business permits his office had issued at Pungayan and five villages encroaching into the watershed.

Bentrez spoke at a dialogue among concerned traders and residents organized by the Catholic Church’s Social Action Center.

He said development projects, such as farm-to-market roads, which were lined up for communities in the villages of Poblacion, Camp 4, Camp 6, Tabaan Sur and Tabaan Norte inside the watershed, would now violate the writ.

The dialogue was initiated to draw up a plan of action, given the impact of the writ on Mt. Sto. Tomas settlers and their livelihood.


“I will be giving an order recalling all business permits after I get the copy of the CA ruling. I will have to abide by the ruling, so please do not hold it against me. All the development projects will be canceled,” Bentrez told residents.

“The intent of the petitioners is good, for the protection of the environment. But maybe, they failed to see how the writ would affect residents within the reservation; they only thought of Pungayan,” he said.

“The Mt. Sto. Tomas reservation should be delineated because there are residents, those who have been there for decades now,” he said.

Bentrez also said vegetable farming has been a major source of livelihood for Tuba residents. “What will happen to the vegetable farmers if the court would order them to stop farming?” he asked.

The writ expressed alarm at the state of the watershed. “The fact remains that these vegetable gardens still exist up to this day with no sign of abatement. Establishments were allowed to be erected therein -– concrete residential houses and even businesses like coffee shops and `wagwagan’ (used clothes stores). Worse, business permits were issued in their favor,” the court said.

“The mayor of Tuba also acknowledged that… people are flooding Mt. Cabuyao as a tourist destination after the area was used as a location for filming a television show. When people come in droves, businesses would naturally follow. As a result, human traffic within the forest reserve has exposed it to solid waste problems, which despite the issuance of a Writ of Kalikasan and a Tepo (temporary environmental protection order) by the Supreme Court in this case, remained unmonitored and unregulated by the authorities,” the court said.

“We just cannot maintain a blasé attitude just because things have already been ongoing for decades, especially when we are dealing with the primordial rights of the present and future generations. It is never too late to effect change.”

The writ credited three mountain trekkers -– Francis Likigan Jr., Eric Tanglib and Christian Labascan -– for reporting the anomalies at the Mt. Sto. Tomas reservation to Benguet Gov. Nestor Fongwan in April 2014, which drew attention to the condition of the forest area.


ABS-CBN stops ‘La Presa’ concert

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TAGS: Benguet, Court of Appeals, Entertainment, Forevermore, Television, Tourism
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