LINGAYEN, Dec. 7 (PNA) — The Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) finally passed a resolution authorizing Governor Amado Espino Jr. to exhaust all legal remedies, including the filing of appropriate cases against the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), in relation to the ongoing cutting of trees along the Manila North Road (MNR) in the province.
The resolution was eventually passed after its original title proposed by its sponsor Board Member Liberato Villegas was substituted by Board Member Alfonso Bince Jr., a lawyer, also authorizing the governor to file cases against the two government agencies.
However, the action might be too late in view of Board Member Danilo Uy’s report stating that beginning December 4, the DPWH has intensified its tree cutting activities in anticipation of the SP’s legal action.
On October 30, the DENR issued a permit to the DPWH to cut the remaining 589 standing trees and to earth-ball at least 107 others within a period 45 days. The tree cutting actually started November 23 which will end on December 17.
Provincial Legal Officer Geraldyn Baniqued said there would be no harm if authority is granted by the board to the governor to file a case to save those trees that may yet be uncut.
Baniqued clarified that the province is not preventing the implementation of infrastructure projects but only the cutting of trees by the two agencies.
A report stated that as of Sunday, there was a total of 357 trees that were already cut, out of the 589 trees that were still standing.
However, Board Member Danilo Uy, who lives in Sison town, said that there may be only five trees left uncut as the cutting is being done round-the-clock by several teams using two cranes, two backhoes and several chainsaws.
DPWH Assistant Regional Director Ronnel Tan believes tree cutting will be over before December 17.
Answering a question posed by Board Member Ranjit Shahani, Baniqued confirmed that the trees that were cut are owned by the state as they were planted within the road right of way.
Environmentalists are siding with the provincial government’s move to save the trees.
But according to Board Member Uy, there are trees within private properties that were marked too by the DPWH for cutting but the property owners protested.
The trees that were cut are located on both sides of MNR from Binalonan, Pozorrubio and Sison.
At present, the roadsides in Carmen, Rosales, Villasis and Urdaneta City were already cleared of trees.
Board Member Bince earlier opposed the original resolution, citing the letter received by the Provincial Board from Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson on Dec. 1, 2015 appealing for understanding in the cutting of the century-old trees along the MNR.
The letter of Singson reads: “Please be informed that this Department favors the preservation of Old Century trees. However, for other trees that are within the Right-of-Way (ROW) which were defined under the Philippine Highway Act as land reserved and secured to the public for highway purposes, these should be removed.”
He also said that public safety and convenience are the primordial consideration in the use of the said land.
“Moreover, the Department addresses these considerations and complied with all the requirements of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in securing Tree Cutting Permit, pursuant to the provisions of Presidential Decrees 705 and 593,” the DPWH noted.
Singson reiterated that the road widening projects, especially in constricted areas is necessary for the socio-economic development of the country, in general, particularly in Pangasinan. (PNA)