Gov’t to sacrifice 300 trees to widen highway in Pangasinan
BAGUIO CITY—The government will sacrifice at least 300 trees for a road-widening project in eastern Pangasinan where dozens of trees had been killed earlier, according to officials, prompting an environmental group to appeal for the trees to be relocated instead of cut.
The Save the Trees Coalition, which is based in Pampanga, has appealed to Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to resort to earth-balling the trees, which entails transferring them to another area favorable for growth.
Emmanuel Diaz, public works district engineer in eastern Pangasinan, said an inventory by the DPWH showed at least 800 fully grown mahogany, gmelina, narra, acacia, fire trees and assorted fruit trees are on the path of the planned road expansion on MacArthur Highway from the town of Villasis to Sison.
Many of these would be cut, he said.
Fernando Estrada, community environment and natural resources officer (Cenro) in Urdaneta City, said more than 1,000 trees are along the highway.
He said his office has yet to be informed of the actual number of trees that would be cut, but that he was sure it would exceed 300.
The inventory will be completed by the end of January and will be submitted to Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, who would issue the permit to cut trees.
Of the 321 trees that had been marked for death earlier, 256 had been cut. The trees were estimated to be between 25 to 30 years old.
Estrada said the trunks of the killed trees were deposited at the division office of the Department of Education in Binalonan town and the Cenro office in Urdaneta City.
Officials of Binalonan and Pozzorubio towns and police have also requested to be given trunks.
In Central Luzon, DPWH has applied permits to kill trees on segments of the MacArthur Highway in Tarlac for the highway’s expansion.
Ricardo Calderon, DENR regional director, said the DPWH request is pending at the DENR’s central office.
Calderon said he was in a workshop on Thursday and could not immediately say how many trees are due to be felled along MacArthur Highway.
Loreta Malaluan, chief of the regional DPWH construction division, confirmed the request for permits to cut trees. She, however, could not say how many trees would be killed.
DPWH has been widening and building canals along the highway from Paniqui to Moncada, Tarlac City to Gerona and Bamban to Capas since the last quarter of 2011.
In a previous campaign against tree-cutting for highway projects, environmental groups painted human figures on trees to try to convince government officials and workers to stop cutting these.
Some environmental activists fighting logging in the country’s denuded forests have also resorted to planting nails into tree trunks to stop loggers from cutting these. The nails are supposed to destroy the blades of chainsaws.
In this city, organizers said at least 3,000 took part in a rally to denounce plans by the country’s biggest mall developer to relocate up to 100 pine trees for an expansion plan that had been given the go signal by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and other agencies of government.
A plan by SM to transfer the trees by earth-balling to another site came under fire long after the mall developer had secured all the permits it needed to remove the trees from Luneta Hill to build a bigger mall and parking space that SM said adhere to its commitment to protect the environment while generating jobs and businesses.
President Aquino has issued an executive order banning commercial logging nationwide but tree-cutting continues in many parts of the country, including the Sierra Madre mountain range where environmental activists have received threats from logging operators. Yolanda Sotelo, Inquirer Northern Luzon; with reports from Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon
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