Pangasinan firm on fight vs tree-cutting

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LINGAYEN, Pangasinan – The provincial government of Pangasinan maintains its ground in regard to the cutting of trees, particularly those along the Manila North Road (MNR) Urdaneta City-Binalonan-Pozzorubio-Sison section.

“We wish to make it clear that we are absolutely against the cutting of any more living and surviving trees along the Manila North Road.”

Thus stated the letter of Governor Amado T. Espino Jr. addressed to Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Regional Office 1 officer-in-charge Director, Melanio Brosios and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Regional Office 1 Director, Samuel Peñafiel, dated March 5, 2015.

The Governor added, “…we maintain the position that concerned government agencies, such as DENR, should exert all means to treat and rehabilitate the previously girdled trees that have a good chance of survival.”

The letter came after an article published in a national daily citing the DPWH Third Engineering District’s request for permission from the DENR to cut the 127 allegedly dead trees along the MNR.

The said trees were among the 770 trees spared from tree cutting, but were girdled, for the MNR widening project, traversing eastern Pangasinan towns- Rosales, Villasis, Binalonan, Pozorrubio, Sison, and Urdaneta City.

In the same article, District Engineer Emmanuel Diaz noted that his office “could not just cut the dead trees because of a provincial board resolution that stopped the cutting of trees along the MNR.”

“At any rate, we do not want to be made as a convenient scape goat, and to be blamed for any road accidents that might occur, as a result of the unpredictable collapse of the dead trees,” Gov. Espino said.

Gov. Espino added that in the first place “it was the DENR, in coordination with the DPWH that girdled the dead trees.”

Nonetheless, Gov. Espino clarified, “Consequently, the Provincial Government of Pangasinan interposes no objection to the cutting and removal of said dead trees, to avoid unnecessary accidents in the area, on condition that the DENR will certify that the trees that will be cut are already dead and beyond revival.”

In 2014, the provincial board passed resolutions 412 and 269, expressing the Board’s opposition to 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 to cut any of the standing big trees along the MNR.

Likewise, in a consultative meeting on tree cutting along the MNR held on August 26, 2014, representatives from the DPWH, DENR, provincial government, and various environmentalists groups already agreed to “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 parties also concurred that “DENR and the DPWH shall implement immediate and effective measures to heal and rehabilitate the trees.”

Narchito Arpilleda, DPWH Region 1 administrative officer, even vowed that they will follow the instruction given by DPWH Sec. Rogelio Singson to continue with the MNR widening project without cutting trees.

Meanwhile, in October 2014, a tree pathologist, upon inspection of the girdled trees, recommended to rehabilitate the remaining trees, citing the trees’ indications for growth and development.

Dr. Ernesto Militante, a former University of the Philippines Los Baños professor, suggested that proper pruning, treatment, and surgery shall be done to the said trees.

He also said that the girdling, done by the DENR in coordination with the DPWH, was purposely done to kill the trees.

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