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DPWH to cut century-old trees along MacArthur Highway

June 21, 2009 06:37 PM Sunday [ ]

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga -- Local government units and non-governmental organizations in Central Luzon urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to restrain its order on the cutting of 5,446 century-old trees along the stretches of the Manila North Road (MNR) commonly known as MacArthur Highway to pave way for the widening and rehabilitation of the road network.

On Tuesday, Environment Secretary Lito Atienza has issued a permit to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to go on with the cutting of trees found on the path of the road widening project.

Dated April 22, the permit allowed the DPWH to earth-ball and transfer 1,282 trees that are 25-cm wide in trunks and cut at least 4,164 matured trees.

Only 257 trees will be spared along the stretches of Apalit to the City of San Fernando in Pampanga, Bamban to Capas and Tarlac City to San Manuel in Tarlac province.

“Tree-cutting cannot be avoided as the MNR is going to be expanded from two lanes to four lanes or six lanes in some portions,” Atienza said in his memorandum.

A copy of the permit was transmitted to the office of DPWH Central Luzon director Alfredo Tolentino on May 26.

But the Advocacy for the Development of Central Luzon (ADCL) has opposed the impending cutting of trees in three sections of MacArthur Highway in Pampanga and Tarlac.

ADCL also renewed calls to local governments and private groups to save the trees.“They’re cutting so many trees in this time when there’s global warming,” said Ignacio Dobles, head of ADCL environmental advocacy desk.

Sofio Quintana, DENR regional technical director for forestry, said Atienza has required the DPWH to put up billboards, 4 feet by 8 feet in size, to inform the public that the DENR authorized the tree-cutting and earth-balling.

The secretary also required the DPWH to replace every fallen tree with 30 seedlings, all of which will be given to the nursery of the DENR for its reforestation activities. The logs will also be turned over to DENR.

The last condition obliged the DPWH to make sure representatives of the DENR and local governments are present during the tree-cutting and earth-balling.

The permit is good only for 120 days. Quintana said that if that period has lapsed, the DPWH will have to get a new permit to proceed with its clearing activities.

According to Quintana, none of the trees belonged to endangered species. Most of these are Acacia and fruit trees, he said, citing results of a census. Rudy J. Abular


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