DENR eases rules on tree-cutting to help accelerate DPWH projects
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has relaxed its own rules on the cutting and relocation of trees affected by the construction of roads, bridges and flood control dikes by the government.
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu has delegated to the community environment and natural resources officers (Cenros) the authority to issue tree-cutting and earth-balling permits supposedly to fast track infrastructure projects of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
The DENR came up with the revision after delays in the processing of tree-cutting permits was blamed as one of the causes of the slow implementation of the government’s “Build Build Build” program.
In his order dated July 18, Cimatu shifted the responsibility of issuing tree-cutting permits from the 16 regional DENR chiefs down to the 140 Cenros nationwide.
“The concerned (community environment and natural resources) office shall issue the corresponding tree-cutting permit and/or earth-balling permit within three working days indicating the number of trees based on the analysis of the appropriate infrastructure plan with tree charting or if necessary, on the result of actual ocular inspection,” he said.
The DENR chief tasked Cenros to attend preliminary meetings with DPWH officials to discuss the design of infrastructure projects such that it will consider aiming for the least number of trees that will be affected.
The DPWH came under fire after the 2017 Commission on Audit report revealed that about P73.4 billion worth of infrastructure projects under its current “Build, Build, Build” program were either delayed, suspended, terminated, or not implemented.
Among the reasons the DPWH cited for the failures were delays in the approval of project site, right of way issues, late release of funds, bad weather conditions, insufficiency of contractor’s equipment, and late or non-issuance of permits from concerned agencies such as the DENR.
In the DENR order, however, the DPWH is still required submit to the Cenro several requirements, which include, among others, the project plan which charts the trees that will be affected by the project; an environmental compliance certificate; and an endorsement from the local government unit.
“Evaluation of the complete requirements shall be done upon receipt thereof. Application with incomplete requirements shall not be acted upon and returned to the applicant immediately,” Cimatu said.
The DENR requires the inventory of trees that will be cut or transferred, and that such list shall serve as a basis for a tree replacement, hauling of logs and computation of forest charges. /kga
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