By The Daily Tribune
December 6, 2019 12:20 AM

TACLOBAN CITY — At least 24 trees alongside the highway in Caibiran, Biliran were cut down without permits during the conduct of road-clearing operations, which caused an uproar among its residents.

The trees were cut in September this year without securing permission from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) as the local government unit (LGU) was trying to beat the deadline set to clear obstructions in all road networks in the country.

To recall, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has issued Memorandum Circular 2019-121 last 29 July mandating LGU to conduct road-clearing of obstructions and illegal structures within 60 days.

“These trees are not obstructions. Many of them have been there even before the highway was constructed,” Crispin Sabarre, a resident of the town for 57 years, said.

He said he was dismayed with the tree-cutting because some of those that were cut were already decades old and helped stabilize the soil in the area. These were also a few meters off the road and clearly not road obstructions.

“Our town is prone to soil erosion and landslides and these trees help prevent destructive landslides,” Sabarre explained.

“I hope the government will look into this because the indiscriminate cutting of trees in the name of road-clearing might not only be happening in Caibiran but also in other places here in Biliran,” he added.

A report from the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO), which conducted an investigation, confirmed the illegal cutting of trees in its report dated 8 October.

The PENRO also reported that the trees were between one to three meters from the road pavement and were “not really causing any obstruction.”

“Trees planted or naturally growing along the side of the road cannot be considered an obstruction of passage as it does not fall under the category as ‘illegal structures and constructions’,” the PENRO report said.

“Implementation of government programs and projects that involves cutting or removal of trees should be cleared first from the government agency concerned,” it recommended.

The PENRO requested the Caibiran LGU to explain in writing why it should be held liable for the unauthorized cutting of trees.

The report also mentioned that among the trees that were cut include acacia, some fruit-bearing trees like santol, mango and jackfruit, as well as natural-growing trees like antipolo, tagisang bayawak and binunga. – TDT

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