Tree cutting along Pangasinan road resumes
POZORRUBIO, Pangasinan—Contractors of a road-widening project resumed the cutting of trees along the Manila North Road (MNR) in Pozorrubio and Binalonan towns in Pangasinan province last week, toppling at least six trees so far, the Inquirer learned.
“We already have a tree-cutting permit,” a backhoe operator, who declined to give his name, told the Inquirer. But an official of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), who also asked not to be named, said he did not know of any permit issued by his agency.
A copy of a memorandum from Environment Undersecretary Demetrio Ignacio Jr., dated July 21, granted clearance to the DENR regional director to issue a special tree-cutting permit to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). Narchito Arpilleda, DPWH district office spokesperson, said the DENR issued the special permit on Aug. 20.
The DENR memorandum, however, clarified that the permit covers only 158 dead and 28 dying trees along the MNR, which are among the 770 left standing after the DPWH’s
tree-cutting permit, issued in November 2013, expired in February 2014.
The trees did not survive after they were girdled, a process where a patch of bark around the trunk is removed to prevent nutrients from circulating within the tree.
The DPWH has applied for a new permit, but nongovernment organizations (NGOs) asked a court in Urdaneta City, also in Pangasinan, to issue a temporary environmental protection order to save the trees. The court is still hearing the case.
Ignacio’s memorandum required the DPWH to hold meetings and public consultations with concerned local governments, NGOs and other groups to discuss the urgency of the matter. “Prior to tree-cutting operations, placards or signboards [measuring] 4 feet by 8 feet should be installed at conspicuous places to inform the public that tree-cutting operations are authorized by the DENR,” it said.
It also said the cutting operations shall, at all times, be under the strict supervision of DENR officials.
Arsenia Gaduang, 62, a resident of Barangay Rosario here, said she was surprised to see her family’s fruit-bearing mango tree lying along the road on Sunday. Its branches and leaves were strewn all over the place.
“It was standing on Sunday. We just went to the beach and when we came home, it’s gone,” Gaduang said.
A narra tree standing about 10 meters away from the mango tree was felled on Monday, she said. “We thought they will no longer cut it because last July, they pruned it and they told me they will not cut it.”
Virginia Pasalo, trustee of the Women in Development Foundation and one of those who asked the court to stop the tree cutting, said the old trees along the highway were victims of a “massacre.”
“[These trees were] trying to resuscitate themselves from the attempted murder not so many months ago. They are already breathing and moving away from intensive care, and the angels of death have dealt them the final blow. It is heartless; it is an act of the devil,” Pasalo said.
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