Save the Trees Coalition files case vs Ochoa; DPWH spares 486 trees
ANGELES CITY—The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has scrapped its plan to cut 486 trees to widen the stretch of the Manila North Road here and in nearby Mabalacat City.
The move came just as leaders of the Save the Trees Coalition (STC) filed a civil case on Monday in a bid to get a temporary environmental protection order (Tepo) against a permit issued by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr.
“Inasmuch as we will no longer cut the trees for the project, the case will be moot,” said Antonio Molano, DPWH director in Central Luzon, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer when sought for comments on the case filed by the STC at the regional trial court here on Monday.
But STC leaders led by Cecile Yumul and their lawyer, Francisco Yabut, were not quick in declaring victory or rejoicing over the DPWH’s decision to cut old acacia trees.
“Director Molano should tell the court in official procedures about the cancellation of the tree cutting. We need proof or guarantee that the trees will be spared from cutting and the rights of my clients to a clean environment are recognized and respected,” Yabut said.
Yumul was not letting down her guard, saying DPWH officials should respond to the case.
The tree-cutting permit was among those that Ochoa approved in July from 174 projects of the Department of Engery, DPWH and two local governments.
The other defendants in the case are Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje and Environmental Management Bureau Central Luzon Director Lormelyn Claudio.
Molano said the plan was scrapped at the instruction of Singson last week. The DPWH would build guard rails around the trees and use the outer lanes for bicycles and motorcycles.
He said the agency would consult with stakeholders on Wednesday about a plan to cut trees to widen the Friendship Road or the Magalang (Pampanga)-Concepcion (Tarlac) Road as an alternative route to the Clark International Airport inside the Clark Freeport.
Yumul said the STC would also oppose this.
The 19-page complaint cited the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in the case of Oposa vs Factoran that recognized the “right to a balanced and healthful ecology,” as a “legally demandable and enforceable right” and the “correlative duty to refrain from impairing the environment.”
In asking the court to nullify and void Ochoa’s permit, the STC cited various benefits of trees, including flood mitigation, clean air and traffic safety.
“Let us learn from our mistakes, the way first world countries have learned from theirs. We can continue to move on progressively without destroying what is not ours to destroy,” the STC leaders said in the complaint.