1,829 trees to be killed for road plan
DAGUPAN CITY—Environmentalists and church groups have petitioned the government to stop the “slaughter” of 1,829 trees that were marked for cutting or earthballing in five towns and a city in Pangasinan province to make way for the expansion of the MacArthur Highway, a major link to northern Luzon.
Some of the petitioners were tourists, who saw the trees as they motored up to the summer capital, among them
Fr. Robert Reyes, the “running priest.”
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources Department (DENR) in November last year issued a special tree cutting permit to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to clear the area for the road expansion project.
The trees line the stretch of MacArthur Highway, also known as the Manila North Road, that links the towns of Sison, Pozorrubio, Binalonan, Villasis and Rosales, and Urdaneta City.
More than half of the trees had been cut, said Emmanuel Diaz, Pangasinan district engineer.
Diaz, in a telephone interview on Wednesday, said the clearing operations would proceed because “it is needed for the road widening.”
The trees that have yet to be cut or transferred are in Binalonan and Pozorrubio towns, Diaz said.
He said he has not been apprised about the actual number of trees still left standing, but said among these are narra, acacia and mahogany.
Diaz said the 90-day tree cutting permit issued by the DENR would lapse in February.
Binalonan Mayor Ramon Guico III said the local government tried to save some of the trees.
“We asked [the agencies to spare the] trees near the crossing (junction of MacArthur Highway and the road leading to Manaoag town in Pangasinan), but there was no way to save them. We just replaced them by planting trees in the villages,” he said.
Petition of rage
Guico said many trees would be cut in the villages of Sta. Maria and Canarvacaan in his town.
Reyes was one of many Baguio visitors who called the
Inquirer Northern Luzon Bureau early this month to express his outrage at the fate of the trees.
The priest, who is based in Cagayan Valley region, said he had informed environmental organizations about the trees’ fate, “which has been surrounded by too much silence.”
On Jan. 25, an online petition was put up to save the remaining trees in Pangasinan by several groups.
“We are enraged that the DENR, the lead government agency tasked to conserve, protect, and rehabilitate the Philippine environment gave its imprimatur for the massive destruction of trees…,” the petition said.
“These agencies have glossed over the fact Pangasinan trees lining the national highway have, all these years, helped trap the poisonous greenhouse gasses responsible for global warming and climate change,” it added.
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