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Deadline to finish off trees for road: Feb. 12

/ 09:33 PM February 06, 2014

THESE trees along MacArthur Highway in Binalonan town, Pangasinan province, are likely to end up like the tree in the photo below if contractors of a project to widen the highway have their way. WILLIE LOMIBAO/CONTRIBUTOR

DAGUPAN CITY—Environment officials are giving contractors of a road-widening project traversing five towns and a city in Pangasinan until Feb. 12 to cut all the trees that are standing in the project’s way, a deadline that the contractors, however, are not likely to meet.

Leduina Co, provincial environment and natural resources officer, said the Ilocos regional office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) gave the contractor a tree-cutting permit good for 90 days on Nov. 14 last year. The permit is to expire on Feb. 12.

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“We have a directive from the regional office that we should police the [project] area and make sure that no one is cutting [trees] after the expiration of their permit,” Co said in a telephone interview.

A STUMP is all that’s left of a tree in Binalonan, Pangasinan, that happened to stand in the way of a project to widen MacArthur Highway. WILLIE LOMIBAO/CONTRIBUTOR

The cutting of trees lining the side of  MacArthur Highway from Rosales to Sison towns had enraged environmentalists and church groups, prompting them to petition the government to stop the cutting.

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The petitioners included tourists who saw the trees being cut as they motored up to Baguio City.

“The recent massive destruction of trees in Pangasinan indicates  that the lessons learned from these environmental tragedies (referring to recent destructive typhoons) have been lost on the leadership of the present DENR. It has failed to make the necessary shift toward a sustainable development paradigm that puts a premium on the protection of the environment and natural resources over the pursuit of  monetary profits and other short-term economic gains,” they said.

“We lament the irreversible death of  many decades-old trees as a sacrifice for the

DPWH’s (Department of Public Works and Highways) Manila North Road widening project … We want to save the remaining trees still standing and to prevent such other onslaughts on our priceless natural environment,” they added.

Fernando Estrada, community environment and natural resources officer (Cenro), said in an earlier interview that the contractors requested  an extension of their permit because they had been experiencing difficulty in cutting the trees.

He said about 70 percent, or 1,280, of the 1,829 trees marked for cutting had been felled.

“The extension of their permit is up to higher officials’ decision,”  Co said.

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She said that after the permit’s expiration, her office would conduct an inventory of the trees left standing and those that had been cut.

“We have no exact number right now. Both the Cenro and the contractors will submit a report next week,” Co said.

She said that although the contractors applied for an earth-balling permit, they were not able to transfer the trees because “it was no longer practical to earth-ball.”

“They requested  the permit two years ago and the trees have grown that it was no longer practical to earth-ball them,” Co said.

She said the planting of replacement trees would begin in June or July in a 100-hectare area in San Manuel town.

“But other local governments also want to plant trees so some of the seedlings will be given to them,” Co said. Gabriel Cardinoza, Inquirer Northern Luzon

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