Court extends Tepo on Pampanga tree cutting

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ANGELES CITY—A judge here extended the temporary environmental protection order (Tepo) that another judge issued last week against a permit by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. allowing the cutting of 486 trees to widen the stretch of Manila North Road here and Mabalacat City.

In a Dec. 14 order released here on Monday, Judge Ma. Angelica Paras-Quiambao extended the Tepo while the case is pending in her sala, Branch 59 of the Regional Trial Court here.

The defendants are Ochoa, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje and Lormelyn Claudio, Environmental Management Bureau director in Central Luzon.

“A Tepo is issued in favor of the plaintiffs enjoining the defendants, their subordinates and personnel, and all persons acting under their authority or instructions from cutting, harming, injuring, earth-balling or transferring the subject trees that will result in the prejudice of the subject trees along the stretch of MacArthur Highway [MNR] until the termination of the case,” Paras-Quiambao said.

She also ordered the branch sheriff to “periodically monitor the existence of acts that are the subject matter of this Tepo until further order from the court.”

Paras-Quiambao extended the Tepo because of the “unrebutted evidence” by Save the Trees Coalition (STC) leader, Cecile Yumul. Ochoa, Singson, Paje and Claudio did not submit any oral or written statement that their agencies had canceled a plan to cut the trees, as Antonio Molano, Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) director in Central Luzon, told the Inquirer last week.

Francisco Yabut, STC lawyer, said the order secured the survival of the 486 trees, mostly old acacia, and recognized the right of his clients to a clean environment from the benefits provided by the trees.

The first Tepo, good for 72 hours, was issued by Executive Judge Omar Viola.

The permit issued by Ochoa was one of many he gave to 174 projects by the Department of Energy, DPWH and local governments of Baguio City and Isabela.  Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon

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