Court OKs deal to spare trees on path of road plans
ANGELES CITY—A judge here has approved a compromise agreement between environmentalists and national government officials, led by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., that would spare 380 trees along the Manila North Road sections in Angeles and Mabalacat cities in Pampanga province.
The stretches of road are being prepared for widening and would have displaced these trees.
The deal, however, allowed the government to remove or earth-ball 106 other trees standing in the way of the widening project.
In a four-page decision issued on Sept. 17, Judge Ma. Angelica Paras-Quiambao of the Regional Trial Court here ruled that the deal was “in order and not contrary to law, morals, good customs and public policy.”
Quiambao had issued a temporary environmental protection order (Tepo) for 486 trees in December 2012 to address a lawsuit filed by the Save the Trees Coalition (STC).
The parties said they entered into mediation to “avoid the trouble and expense of a protracted litigation.”
The lawsuit was triggered by a July 16, 2012, memorandum from Ochoa, which allowed the cutting of trees on the road stretches that used to be MacArthur Highway.
Quiambao ordered STC leaders, Ochoa, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson and Lormelyn Claudio, Environmental Management Bureau director in Central Luzon, to “comply [with the agreement] strictly and faithfully.”
As of Thursday, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in Central Luzon has not proceeded to remove the trees, which the court allowed to be displaced.
Antonio Molano, DPWH Central Luzon director, said his office was waiting for an official copy of the decision. The DPWH has not yet asked the court to lift the Tepo.
STC leader Cecile Yumul said they held ocular inspections with foresters and engineers.
“We found 106 trees—49 of them acacia, some coconut, and some camachile—to be… out of alignment from the proposed bicycle and service lane, or are in the direct path of traffic light approaches,” she said.
Three acacia trees in this batch will be earth-balled and transferred.
Yumul said the most assuring part of the deal was the commitment by national leaders “not to cut or earth-ball the other remaining acacia trees, [which are] subjects of this case, upon lifting of the Tepo unless the same is necessary for the future implementation of the Manila North Road project.”
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources will donate the lumber from the 106 displaced trees to the Department of Education for the construction of public schools, chairs and tables, and to the Angeles City government. Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.