DPWH completes road tree-cutting, spares 108 trees
LINGAYEN, Pangasinan—The contractor tasked with widening the Manila North Road (MNR) in this province has cut all the trees it needed to remove to allow the government-sanctioned project to proceed.
With only three days before the expiration of an extended tree-cutting permit, workers cleared 481 of 589 trees lining the MNR in the eastern part of Pangasinan, said Narchito Arpilleda, district information officer of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
In the process, he said, the workers spared 108 trees.
Last week, the provincial board authorized Gov. Amado Espino Jr. to pursue a temporary restraining order and a writ of preliminary injunction against the DPWH and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to spare the trees along the highway.
The provincial government has joined a campaign waged in 2014 by environmental groups to stop the national government from cutting the trees. But in a text message on Monday, lawyer Geraldine Baniqued, Pangasinan legal officer, said the provincial government did not proceed with the lawsuit because all of the trees it intended to save had been cut.
The contractor first felled 1,721 of the 1,829 trees marked for cutting along the 42-kilometer stretch of the MNR traversing the towns of Rosales, Villasis, Binalonan, Pozorrubio and Sison, and in Urdaneta City in November 2013.
The DPWH stopped clearing the remaining 770 trees when the agency’s tree-cutting permit expired in February 2014.
But the surviving trees were girdled, enraging activists, residents and Pangasinan officials. Girdling involves the stripping of a trunk’s bark, disrupting the tree’s absorption of nutrients which would lead to its death.
The agency’s contractor resumed its tree-cutting activities on Nov. 23 when the DENR extended for 45 days the permit it issued to the agency in 2013. The extended permit expires on Dec. 17.
“I was just informed by the project engineer today that they have only one tree left to cut in Barangay Bugayong in Binalonan [town] today (Monday). The remaining 108 trees will be spared… some of them will just be pruned,” Arpilleda said by telephone.
He said the DPWH could complete its road-widening project before the end of this year, preventing the project’s fund from being returned to the national coffers. Gabriel Cardinoza, Inquirer Northern Luzon
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