‘Running priest’ joins fight to save trees | Inquirer News

‘Running priest’ joins fight to save trees

By: - Correspondent / @yzsoteloINQ
/ 12:30 AM February 14, 2014

TREE STUMPS litter the road shoulder of MacArthur Highway in Binalonan town in Pangasinan. WILLIE LOMIBAO/CONTRIBUTOR

BINALONAN, Pangasinan—Fr. Robert Reyes, the running priest, raced through MacArthur Highway on Thursday, drawing attention to the cutting of more than 1,000 trees to make way for a government road-widening project in five towns and Urdaneta City in Pangasinan province.

“Who will protect the trees? It should be the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources). But the DENR in this case did not protect the trees. In fact, they gave permit to the DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) to cut the trees,” Reyes told reporters here.


During his protest run, the priest stopped to tie a white ribbon around every 10th tree along the highway. He said the ribbon was a way to express hope that the tree would still be saved.


Reyes also carried a placard that read: “Thou shall not kill.”

Officers of Green Convergence, a coalition of 50 environmental organizations, accompanied Reyes and also tied white ribbons around the trees.

At least 1,829 trees have been marked for cutting to give way to the road-widening project in the towns of Rosales, Villasis, Binalonan, Pozorrubio and Sison, and in Urdaneta.

The 90-day permit for the cutting or transfer of the trees lapsed on Feb. 5 (not Feb. 12 as earlier reported) so the process to clear the trees had been frozen, said Fernando Estrada, community environment and natural resources officer.

Earlier, Estrada said 70 percent, or 1,280, of the trees had been felled since Nov. 7 last year, when the tree-cutting permit was issued. He said the project’s contractors had asked for an extension of their permit.

Angelina Galang, Green Convergence president, asked the DENR regional office not to grant the contractors’ plea to save the remaining trees.


Former Pangasinan Rep. Mark Cojuangco has assumed responsibility for the tree-cutting.

Reacting to Reyes’ protest run, Cojuangco said: “There is such a thing as misplaced environmentalism. I hope those against [the tree-cutting] will be one with us in fighting for permanent areas that the government should buy outside the roads’ right of way.”

He said suspending the tree-cutting permit would delay the road project. “How many years more would they want us to wait?” he said. “That project has already been delayed for three years.”

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“We are not arbitrarily against trees. As a matter of fact, we are for trees, more trees. But trees in the right place. If you plant a tree in the middle of the highway, it’s the wrong place to plant a tree,” he said.

TAGS: Fr. Robert Reyes, News, Regions, trees

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