DPWH spares John Hay trees in Baguio roadwork, Department of Public Works and Highways

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VARIOUS agencies, from the environment department to the Bases Conversion and Development Authority, have complained of this section of the Baguio Circumferential Road, which penetrates the Camp John Hay forest, and have occasionally displaced trees. The Department of Public Works and Highways has made changes recently so the road would not damage more trees. RICHARD BALONGLONG/INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON

BAGUIO CITY—The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has decided to move a section of the Baguio Circumferential Road to save 19 pine trees after Camp John Hay officials stopped its roadwork in March.

Ireneo Galinato, Baguio City district engineer, said the agency proposed to divert parts of the road passing through Barangay (village) Happy Hallow in Camp John Hay to avoid the trees, which were subjects of a cease and desist order imposed by the John Hay Management Corp. (JHMC).

Jamie Agbayani, JHMC president, said JHMC was deputized by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to oversee the condition of Camp John Hay’s forest reserve.

The road passing through Happy Hallow is within the John Hay Special Economic Zone, which JHMC administers for the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA).

In a news conference on Wednesday, JHMC chair Silvestre Afable Jr. said the company never intended to obstruct the road project, which was designed to offer motorists access to other parts of the city without passing through downtown Baguio, where traffic jams have become the norm.

Afable said JHMC intended to negotiate with the DPWH to reduce the number of trees that would be displaced by the roadwork.

Agbayani said 10 of those trees would have been cut while nine were programmed for earth-balling.

None of the trees would be harmed based on the road redesign drafted by the DPWH after a meeting with the BCDA and JHMC two weeks ago, Galinato said.

“We made sure that the road would skirt the trees or would be widened near the cliff if the trees stood close to the center. The relocation of the pathway of the road would not need extra funds,” he said.

This section of the circumferential road could be completed in two months, finishing the road project that has taken several years to undertake, he said.

In May last year, DENR officials stopped the road construction at another part of Happy Hallow after foresters discovered that the contractor had bulldozed 32 trees without permit.

The Baguio City environment and natural resources office sued the DPWH and the contractor, but the court directed the agencies to settle their differences instead.

In July, Malacañang granted tree-cutting permits to various projects, including the Baguio circumferential road, in a memorandum from Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. The order allowed the DPWH to remove up to 125 trees, all within the Camp John Hay reserve.

The trees, which the DPWH agreed to spare, were not covered by Ochoa’s memorandum, Galinato said. Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon

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