The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) halted the on-going cutting of trees from along the national highway of the City of Naga to Carcar City.
“DENR Secretary Ramon Paje called me up this morning and ordered to stop the cutting of trees and to deny all similar requests,” said DENR 7 Director Isabelo “Boy” Montejo last August 8 in a meeting at the Capitol.
The Department of Public of Works and Highways (DPWH) also received similar directive from their central office.
But Governor Hilario P. Davide III clarified that the assessment of the integrity on the trees will continue.
The governor was in favor of the cutting of the trees saying that “public safety is the paramount concern of the province.” The province pledged to replace every cut tree with 100 seedlings.
However, they cannot also ignore the concerns of the environmentalists, who, including the officials of Naga were also present in the meeting.
The meeting was called after the on-going cutting of old trees in Barangay Tinaan, Naga was met with protest by the environmentalists.
These trees were already declared by DENR 7’s foresters as defective and hazardous to its neighboring residents and road users.
Montejo said they have already given DPWH special permit for the cutting of 154 trees that hindered the road widening in the south.
But the protesters, which include the Philippine Earth Justice Center and Movement for Livable Cebu, reasoned that they were not involved in the assessment of the trees.
Atty. Rose Liza Osorio, managing trustee of Philippine Earth Justice Center, said they were very happy to hear the decision of Sec. Paje.
Montejo also accommodated the involvement of the environmentalists. He said the technical judgment of senior experts is also needed.
Osorio said finally their protest was heard. They are now asking from the DENR for a one week moratorium to do their third party assessment.
“After Dir. Montejo informed me about this green light, let us go ahead and be a third party assessment … na we can arrive at a common decision,” she said.
PEJC requested retired professor Dr. Roger De Guzman of the University of the Philippines-Los Baños (UP-LB) to lead the assessment. Dr. De Guzman was the instructor of DENR 7’s foresters who assessed the old trees.
Last August 5, the DPWH started cutting trees in Barangay Tinaan, Naga. Four of the city’s seven trees identified to be public hazards were already torn down.
Some trees also fell along the street by themselves.