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DPWH, DENR to save all remaining trees along Manila North Road

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan, Aug. 27 — The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) along with other stakeholders agreed to save the remaining more than 700 trees along the Manila North Road (MNR) from Carmen, Rosales to Sison, Pangasinan.

Those to be saved, according to the agreement signed by all parties, include 21 trees on both sides of MNR that were earlier certified by DENR as dead.

In their consultative meeting on tree cutting along the MNR held on August 26, 2014 at the Capitol Resort Hotel in Lingayen, the concerned agencies – provincial government, DPWH, DENR, and various environmentalist groups – agreed upon three items as binding upon all agencies and groups present in the meeting.

These included item 1: "There will be no more cutting of trees, except that a tree may be felled only upon final determination by an independent expert with the concurrence of all parties/agencies in interest that the tree has no more chance of survival."

The agreement also declared that the "DENR and the DPWH shall implement immediate and effective measures to heal and rehabilitate the trees."

"An independent expert who has the capacity to determine the status of the trees shall be consulted, and together with all agencies and groups here present, shall jointly accompany the expert in the actual inspection of all affected trees," the agreement further said.

Rafael Howard Baraan, Pangasinan provincial administrator, said the agencies present in that meeting will immediately conduct an inspection of the trees.

"All measures shall be exerted to save the trees," he assured.

Meanwhile, provincial environment and natural resources officer Leduina Co, cited the August 11 memorandum of DENR Secretary Ramon Paje ordering all regional directors of the DENR and Environmental Management Bureau to return to the DPWH all applications for environmental compliance certificates and tree-cutting permits. This memorandum was the main reason for the agreement.

The memorandum required all DPWH directors and engineers to prove that all options had been taken to avoid tree cutting for road projects before the DENR allows the cutting of trees.

For their part, Narchito Arpilleda, DPWH Region 1 administrative officer, vowed that they will follow the instruction given by DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson "to continue with the (MNR) widening project without cutting trees."

Other signatories in the agreement were Virginia Pasalo of the Pangasinan Historical and Cultural Commission; Patricia Gwen Borcena of the Green Research; Julia Senga of the International Visitor Leadership Program; Fernando Estrada Jr., Teodorico Agcolicol Jr., and Alberson Sagun, all, of the DENR; and Rex Paderes and Andres Nicer of the DPWH.

Pasalo said that the agreement is for them to reiterate Provincial Resolution No. 269-2014, as she cited that two mahogany trees, which were said to be "dead", have been cut even after the said resolution was ratified.

Provincial Resolution No. 269-2014 expressed the sense of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan opposing the cutting of trees along the national roads within the province, with intent to preserve as many trees as possible with stern warning to the DPWH Third Pangasinan Engineering District not cut any of the standing big trees, more or less 700 in all, along the MNR.

"This is an affirmation of the group's concurrence to that resolution…this (agreement) is a proof that the agencies agree to the position of the provincial board of Pangasinan that there should be no more tree cutting," remarked Baraan.

It can be recalled that the MNR widening project required the cutting of 1,829 trees along national highway in the eastern Pangasinan towns of Rosales, Villasis, Binalonan, Pozorrubio, Sison, and Urdaneta City.

At least 1,059 trees had already been cut by the DPWH from November 2013 until the expiration of its tree cutting permit last February, leaving 770 uncut trees. (PNA)

LAP/JOHANNE MARGARETTE R. MACOB/LVM

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