Groups hit ‘massacre’ of 1,721 trees along Manila North Road

>> Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Officials involved should be removed from office’ 

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan – Environmental and cause-oriented groups assailed government officials after the contractor widening the Manila North Road in this province has cut all the trees it needed to remove to allow the government project to proceed but spared 108 trees.
The groups said the total number of trees cut along the road was 1,721 “killed by Dept. of Public Works and Highways and their contractors with the blessing of Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources Sec. Ramon Paje and his leadership team.”
“The DENR, DPWH, and other government officials who instigated and authorized this massacre of these beautiful decades-old trees in Pangasinan and other areas should be exposed and removed from their positions for violating the affected communities’ right to a healthy environment and natural heritage,” the groups said in a statement sent to the Northern Philippine Times.
“Tuwid na Daan”  pabaang widened 4–lane road  sa kabila ng massacre ng halos dalawang libong mga puno?  Tuwid na Daan”  pabaa ng balewalin o di pakinggan ang protesta o panawagan ng napakaraming civil society organizations (COSs) at networks sa patuloy na pagkasira ng kalikasan sa lugar na ito at iba pang mgal ugar sa ating bayan?”
Three days before 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.
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 to spare 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 end of this year, so the project’s fund would not be returned to the national coffers. 


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