Not 300, but 5,000 trees to be cut for road
ILOILO CITY—More than 5,000 trees, not only 300 as earlier declared by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), would be cut down to widen the two-lane national highway that links Iloilo province to the provinces of Aklan and Capiz.
Mayor Tomas Peñaflorida of Pototan town in Iloilo said the tree cutting along the 13-kilometer stretch of the national road in his town is covered by a permit that the DENR in Western Visayas region issued to the Department of Public Works and Highways. (DPWH)
He said the project would widen the two-lane national highway into four lanes, affecting 5,123 mature mahogany trees.
The road section where the trees would be cut stretches from the town’s boundary with Zarraga town on one end and Dingle town on the opposite end.
“We are saddened by the loss of our trees,” Peñaflorida told the Inquirer. “But we have to give way to a project that will benefit the whole province and those passing our town.”
He said the permit also required the DPWH to replant 100 trees for each tree cut, in designated areas along the highway.
Pototan residents earlier expressed dismay over the cutting of the trees, many of which are between 20 and 25 years old.
The trees, which used to line the stretch of national highway from Iloilo to Capiz and Aklan, provided shade to motorists, with the verdant scenery offering respite to travelers. People used to post on its trunks poems about trees and nature.
Peñaflorida said more trees will have to be felled for the road widening project that will cover the 16-km stretch from the town proper.
Jim Sampulna, DENR regional executive director, said he received additional requests for permits to cut trees from the towns of Dueñas and Dingle for the project.
But he said the DENR would only issue such permits if local governments can prove the plan went through public consultations and dialogues.
He said he issued the permit to cut trees in Pototan because he was convinced by its importance. “This is for the benefit of all, especially those using the road,” Sampulna said.
Peñaflorida said the two-lane road linking Pototan and Iloilo City needed to be widened to avoid vehicular accidents. The volume of vehicles traversing this stretch has increased, he said.
The trees cut will be stored at the DENR depot so these can be used by the Department of Social Welfare and Development for its projects.
Peñaflorida said he would ask the DENR to auction off a portion of the cut trees and distribute the proceeds to villages where the trees were felled to fund barangay projects.
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