MABALACAT CITY—Environmentalists on Thursday resumed painting human figures and the word “Help” on trees due to be cut by the Department of Public Works and Highways to expand the Manila North Road (MNR) in the cities of Angeles and Mabalacat in Pampanga.
The 486 trees along the MNR in these cities had been marked with “X” and are set to be cut, with permits issued by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., a DPWH report showed. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources referred the tree-cutting plan to the Office of the President.
“The ‘X’ mark is therefore a death sentence. We’ve painted these with human figures to remind authorities that people stand to suffer the effects of killing trees,” said Cecile Yumul, spokesperson of the Save the Trees Coalition.
The trees are more than 50 years old and stand along the old MacArthur Highway from Pulung Bulu in Angeles City to Dolores in Mabalacat. Motorists joined the protest by honking their horns.
Angeles City Mayor Edgardo Pamintuan and Mabalacat City Mayor Marino Morales said they did not endorse the cutting of trees because they proposed the use of outer lanes as service road for motorcycles, tricycles and bicycles.
Antonio Molano, DPWH Central Luzon director, said the trees have to be cut “because many people have died due to falling branches.” He could not cite data on accidents and fatalities caused by trees, though.
The DPWH did not report the number of trees it cut for the MNR widening in the Paniqui to Moncada section (worth P147.2 million), Tarlac City to Gerona section (P324.8 million) and Bamban to Capas section (P231.2 million), all in Tarlac, since 2011.
In the Pampanga capital of San Fernando, the DPWH cut 34 trees in 2010 and more than 100 trees in 2009 for road widening.
Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson ordered that trees along Barangay Telabastagan in San Fernando be spared.
Officials of the St. Scholastica’s Academy protested the cutting, saying trees are buffers for schools along the highway.
Yumul urged government officials to “look at trees not as obstacles.”
Citing estimates by the Colorado Trees Coalition, she said a 50-year-old tree generates P1.2 million worth of oxygen, provides P2.5 million worth of air pollution control, recycles P1.5 million worth of water and stops the erosion of P1.2 million worth of soil. Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon