Trees must give way to roads, Speaker says
DAGUPAN CITY—Roads and highways in northern and Central Luzon need to be expanded from two to four lanes, even if it entails cutting roadside trees, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said here on Monday.
Alvarez, who led leaders of the House of Representatives in a road inspection tour that took them to key cities and towns in northern and Central Luzon, said provincial roads had become too narrow for the growing number of motorists.
“This road trip helped us identify the areas where vital infrastructure projects were most needed,” he told reporters in Isabela province.
On Monday, Alvarez again reported that too many roads in the Ilocos region were two-lane routes.
When told that trees would be cut to widen the highways, he said, “We have to sacrifice the trees and just plant more to replace them.”
According to him, the government may pursue earth-balling, a process where trees of a certain age are uprooted and replanted in different locations.
But this requires the government to buy appropriate equipment, he said.
In a forum on May 19, officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in Pangasinan province said they might still need to cut trees standing on the right-of-way of national highways programmed for road widening.
Around 100 trees along Manila North Road were spared after environment groups protested the cutting of more than 1,800 trees there.
But DPWH officials said they would still apply for permits from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to cut trees that obstructed the planned widening of roads.
Trees lining roads programmed for widening in the provinces of La Union, Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte have not been cut because the DENR has not issued permits to chop them down.
Alvarez also suggested that a railway system be revived to serve provinces in northern and Central Luzon. He said he had pushed for a national railway system when he served as transportation secretary from 2001 to 2002.
The railway could use the old rail line of the Philippine National Railways (PNR), he said.
“Although these PNR lines are occupied by informal settlers, they can be relocated. We can ask the local governments to resettle them,” he said. —YOLANDA SOTELO AND VILLAMOR VISAYA JR.
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