Widespread tree cutting prompts DENR Baguio review
BAGUIO CITY—The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has drafted new rules that would soon require developers, businesses and homeowners in the city to plant trees before they are given tree-cutting or earth-balling permits.
Augusto Lagon, DENR Cordillera regional technical director for forestry, said government is also studying a plan to compel developers to take care of the new trees until they mature.
These reforms were proposed due to protests against the earth balling of trees for an expansion plan by mall giant SM in this city that was stopped by a local court.
But SM was not the only one that government allowed to ball or cut trees in the city.
Between 2002 and 2011, DENR had issued 560 cutting and balling permits for 4,729 trees to developers like Camp John Hay Development Corp., Baguio City Economic Zone, schools and universities like the St. Louis University and the University of the Philippines Baguio and residents who are expanding their houses, according to a March 9 DENR report submitted to Vice Mayor Daniel Fariñas.
The report by Clarence Baguilat, DENR Cordillera director, showed that “2,980 trees were affected by development projects … while a total of 1,106 trees posed danger to life and property.”
DENR is investigating a real estate developer and a local high school who applied for tree-cutting permits only after they had cut trees.
DENR last week blamed the Department of Public Works and Highways for allowing its contractor to cut 32 trees without permits when it widened a road in Barangay Happy Hallow, a village inside the Camp John Hay forest reservation.
Lagon said reforms are needed to address the city’s concerns over its environment, without intruding into the legal rights of property owners.
Only 25 percent of the city’s land area of 49 square kilometers remains forested, the DENR report said. “At its current state, Baguio City has an estimated 1,446 hectares of trees or forest [equivalent to] 25 percent [of the city’s land area],” Baguilat said in a report.
Most of the trees (55 percent), according to the DENR report, stand on private lands.
“If we are compelled to stop SM from cutting trees, then government will have to apply the same rule on all private homeowners. Now, how would you react if you decide to cut trees inside your lot to build a new home for your children or grandchildren?” Lagon said.
Lagon said most homeowners and schools applying for tree-cutting permits chose to pay a P250 performance bond for each tree cut or relocated instead of planting trees to replace them.
DENR, he said, had collected P1.2 million in bonds which the agency can use to fund tree-planting activities. Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon
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