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MMDA: Tree removal covered by DENR deal


By Mike Frialde Updated February 16, 2009 12:00 AM [ philstar.com ]

MANILA, Philippines - Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Bayani Fernando said yesterday the relocation of trees along Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City is actually covered by an arrangement with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

DENR Secretary Lito Atienza earlier said he will issue a cease and desist order to prevent the MMDA from balling and cutting more trees along Katipunan Avenue.

The DENR found that 25 trees of various species were either cut or balled and transplanted without a corresponding permit from the DENR-National Capital Region (NCR).

Fernando said aside from the arrangement with DENR allowing the tree relocation, there is no need for Atienza to issue the order as all the trees in the area have been relocated to a “model urban ecological zone” not far from Katipunan Avenue.

He explained that under the arrangement with DENR, his agency supervises the balling and relocation of trees along roadways in Metro Manila as the MMDA is the one in charge of traffic engineering in the metropolis.

Fernando said that under the same arrangement, tree-balling operations in the provinces fall under the supervision of the Department of Public Works and Highways as the agency in charge of traffic engineering.

“We will transfer any tree which we deem is necessary,” he said.

Fernando said the only time the MMDA will seek the DENR’s permission is if a tree planted along the road needs to be chopped down and destroyed. He said the trees along Katipunan Avenue were not chopped down but were all safely relocated.

DENR-NCR executive director Jose Andres Diaz criticized the MMDA’s system of removing the trees, saying it was “not professionally done” because “the root systems of the trees were exposed to their barest condition.”

MMDA general manager Robert Nacianceno, however, said the balling and transplant of the trees were properly done under the supervision of highly trained MMDA foresters.

Nacianceno said though they did not cut down any tree, some trees were pruned of branches to enable their safe transport. He also admitted that some trees may have sustained some injuries to their roots during the balling operation.

“It may happen. Things may not go perfectly well. But it should not be taken in general,” he said.

According to Nacianceno, the MMDA used a tree-balling machine to scoop out each tree with its root system intact. The tree is then transported with its roots secured in a bag of soil.

The MMDA resumed its clearing operation on Katipunan Avenue after a Quezon City court denied a petition filed by an environmental group seeking to stop the agency from removing trees on the road.

The Concerned Citizens Against Pollution (COCAP) said it was “highly irregular” that they did not receive a copy of the ruling issued by Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge Rosanna Fe Maglaya.

Six years ago, environmental groups criticized the MMDA for cutting down trees on Katipunan Avenue to pave the way for its road-widening project in a bid to improve traffic in the area.

In January 2004, Quezon City RTC Judge Marlene Gonzales Sison ordered the MMDA to stop “balling or cutting the trees until after the prayer for preliminary injunction has been resolved.”

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