ANGELES CITY—A court here has rescued 486 trees from being cut or transferred when it issued a 72-hour temporary environment protection order (Tepo) against a permit issued by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. for a road-widening project of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in Pampanga.
“The defendants, their subordinates and personnel and all persons acting under their control and supervision are enjoined from cutting, earth-balling or transferring the subject trees and/or other actions that will result in the prejudice of the subject trees along the stretch of MacArthur Highway in Angeles City and in the City of Mabalacat, Pampanga,” Executive Judge Omar Viola said in his order.
Viola, head of the regional trial court’s third judicial region here, issued the order at 5 p.m. on Monday, the same day leaders of Save the Trees Coalition (STC) filed a civil case to stop the tree cutting.
The STC leaders cited environmental, health and safety benefits to people for why they wanted the old trees, many of them 50 to 100 years old acacia, saved.
On Tuesday, Viola told the Inquirer that he sent Sheriff Claude Balasbas to serve a copy of the Tepo to Ochoa in Malacañang and to Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje and Environmental Management Bureau Central Luzon Director Lormelyn Claudio.
In a separate order, Judge Ma. Angelica Paras-Quiambao of the Regional Trial Court Branch 59, the environmental court here, summoned the defendants and set a hearing for the extension of the Tepo on Dec. 12, 13 and 14.
Francisco Yabut, STC lawyer, said that in those hearings, the DPWH should “manifest written proof that it is really canceling the cutting of trees along the Angeles and Mabalacat portions of the Manila North Road (MNR, also known as MacArthur Highway).” Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon