Paje: Gov’t should decide between trees and dev’t | Inquirer News

Paje: Gov’t should decide between trees and dev’t

By: - Deputy Day Desk Chief / @TJBurgonioINQ
/ 02:09 AM April 22, 2012

Environment Secretary Ramon Paje.

Sell the land for development or keep the trees?

Environment Secretary Ramon Paje on Saturday said the government should make up its mind before selling a property to a developer, taking into consideration the ramifications—like trees being cut—otherwise it might be too late.


“After disposing of a property, we can’t tell the developer to stop cutting the trees. My point is the government should decide whether to go for development or preserve the area,’’ said Paje, whose decision on the balling of trees at the SM mall in Baguio City sparked a controversy.


Paje said in a phone interview the government should “review’’ the pros and cons of a project proposed by a land developer or end up pleading with the developer to preserve the features of the land.

He said the government should realize that once it disposes of a piece of land, it should not expect the developer to retain its natural features, in the same way the Baguio City government could not expect SM to keep the park it had sold “as a park.’’

He explained that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) only issues permits for the balling of trees. Otherwise, SM Baguio is private property.

The DENR withdrew its permit to the SM Group to cut down 182 trees as part of its mall expansion and told the company to ball them instead after an earlier decision caused a furor.

According to Paje, a host of government projects require the cutting of trees—such as the expansion of the Tarlac-Pangasinan Road—and the government should carefully weigh the pros and cons.

“Almost 2,000 trees will be cut there,’’ he said of the road widening project. “Can I tell the DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) ‘You can’t cut the trees’? Tree-cutting should not be used to stifle a project. From the start, it should be decided whether a project will be pursued or not.’’


If he had his way, Paje said he would not dispose of parks for commercial development.

Paje said he opposed plans by the Quezon City government to turn the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center into a commercial area, as part of the planned commercial business district.

“That should not be developed. We have to stand firm. Imagine if we give the park to the private sector, and then we ask them to keep it as a park,’’ he said.

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First posted 8:37 pm | Saturday, April 21st, 2012

TAGS: DENR, development, environment, Government, Property, real estate, SM Baguio, SM Group, tree cutting, trees

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