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Agreement saves 700 trees

/ 09:30 AM August 28, 2014

THESE are among at least 700 trees that would be saved following an agreement between national and local government officials and environment groups to put a stop to tree cutting for a road-widening project in Pangasinan province. WILLIE LOMIBAO/CONTRIBUTOR

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan—From now on, there will be no more cutting of trees to give way to the widening of the Manila North Road (MNR) in Pangasinan province.

This was the highlight of an agreement reached on Tuesday by officials of local governments, environmental groups and the departments of environment and public works in the controversy over the trees along the MNR after a consultation meeting here.

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The agreement was signed by representatives of the provincial government, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and environmental groups.

“This is an affirmation of the groups’ concurrence to the provincial board resolution prohibiting the cutting of trees in the province,” said Rafael Baraan, provincial administrator.

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“The good thing about this is that this [agreement] now includes the DPWH and the DENR, which were the principal agencies that were supposed to undertake the cutting of trees to give way to the widening of the road,” he said.

The agreement also directed the DENR and the DPWH to implement “immediate and effective” measures to heal and rehabilitate the trees and consult an expert to determine their status.

Patria Gwen Borcena, founding president of Greenresearch, an environmental research group chaired by “running priest” Robert Reyes, said most of the 770 trees on the 42-kilometer MNR stretch passing through Binalonan, Pozorrubio, Sison, Villasis and Rosales towns and Urdaneta City had been girdled.

Girdling is the removal of a strip of bark around the tree trunk, stopping the flow of nutrients from the ground to the leaves.

The 770 trees were among 1,829 trees that the DPWH was supposed to cut to give way to the road-widening project. The DPWH was able to cut 1,059 trees between November 2013 and February this year when its tree-cutting permit expired.

The DPWH has a pending application for the extension of the tree-cutting permit.

Virginia Pasalo, of the Women in Development, and Julia Senga, of the International Visitors’ Leadership Program, filed in June a petition for injunction and environmental protection order in a court in Urdaneta City in a bid to save the remaining trees.

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“In April, the DENR already decided that 255 trees would be healed or rehabilitated… we still have 515 trees [that needed to] be healed,” Borcena said.

Last month, the DENR certified 21 trees as dead, prompting the DPWH to ask for clearance from the provincial board to cut these for being road hazards.

But before the provincial board could act on the request, the DPWH cut two trees in Binalonan town, claiming the dead trees had endangered motorists.

In the agreement, a tree may be felled only upon final determination by an independent expert, with the concurrence of all parties that the tree is terminally ill.

Narchito Arpilleda, DPWH district office administrative officer, said the road-widening project on the MNR will continue without tree cutting. Gabriel Cardinoza, Inquirer Northern Luzon

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TAGS: Department of Environment and Natural Resources, environment, Manila North Road, News, Regions, trees
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