Baguio city – The Cordillera office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR-CAR) warned all municipal assessors regionwide to cease and desist from issuing tax declarations covering lands within forest reservations because such act is in clear violation of the pertinent provisions of Presidential Decree (PD) 705 or the Revised Forestry Reform Code of the Philippines.
DENR-CAR regional director said that there is already a precedent against the issuance of tax declarations by municipal assessors covering lands within forest reservations which is the Permanent Environment Protection Order (PEPO) covering the over 3,000-hectare Mount Sto. Tomas reservation that directed the municipal assessor to cancel all tax declarations that were previously issued to individuals living in the area that is why municipal assessors in other parts of the region must take the appropriate precautions by refraining from issuing said documents to avoid future criminal and administrative charges pursuant to the laws, rules and regulations.
“We are receiving information of some municipal assessors issuing tax declarations to individuals covering certain portions of forest reservations in their areas of jurisdiction when such act is unlawful under our existing laws. We should not be blamed by the local assessors once charges will be filed against them because we already issued to them the appropriate advisory to be strictly followed but it seems there are still existing declarations covering critical watersheds in the different parts of the region,” Pablo stressed.
The DENR-CAR official also underscored existing jurisprudence stipulates that tax declarations are not proofs of ownership but are mere proofs of possession for taxation purposes but tax declarations cannot cover forest reservations because the law clearly provides that watershed areas are not alienable and disposable.
According to him, one of the reasons for the alleged proliferation of massive encroachments in forest reservations around the region is the numerous tax declarations issued by municipal assessors being used by individuals as their evidence to introduce improvements inside watersheds posing serious threats to the state of the environment.
He reported there were several previous notices issued by the agency to the municipal assessors for them to initiate the immediate cancellation of the issued tax declarations covering forest reservations in their places but there seems to be least compliance to the directive.
Pablo claimed the agency will again furnish the assessors with the latest circulars from their central office that mandate the cancellation of all tax declarations previously issued covering portions of forest reservations to prevent unscrupulous individuals from interpreting the same as their proof of ownership over their declared areas.
He claimed that aside from revoking the tax declarations covering watersheds, local officials should see to it that the damaged portions of the reservations should be reforested by those who destroyed them to guarantee the revitalization of the said places and help bring back the greenery of the forests./By Dexter A. See