An Urgent Appeal to Prevent Destruction of Trees in Pangasinan

(January 25, 2014)

OUR COUNTRY TODAY FACES AN UNPRECEDENTED ENVIRONMENTAL CRISIS in no small measure caused by human neglect, greed, and indifference. We have witnessed with horror the aftermath of Ondoy, Sendong, Pablo, and super typhoon Yolanda. The Philippines is ranked 3rd most vulnerable country to natural hazards (United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security, 2012), and 14th among the most affected countries by adverse impact of climate change (German Watch 2013, Global Climate Risk Index). The recent mega-disasters have demonstrated our country’s increasing environmental vulnerability to the effects of climate change and our rapidly deteriorating environment and natural resources.

The recent massive destruction of trees in Pangasinan indicates that the lessons learned from these environmental tragedies have been lost on the leadership of the present Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). It has failed to make the necessary shift towards a sustainable development paradigm that puts a premium on the protection of the environment and natural resources over the pursuit of monetary profits and other short-term economic gains.

As concerned citizens of this country, we demand that the DENR remain true to its mandate, aligning itself with the long-term and interrelated goals of mitigating the effects of climate change and preserving our fragile environment and natural resources for present and future generations. We strongly affirm that the DENR has failed us in this regard. It has not proactively worked to find a way to prevent the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH)’s destruction of Pangasinan’s natural heritage with its infrastructure road widening project. The mass destruction of Pangasinan’s trees gives another strong empirical evidence that President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III and our country have been ill-served by the DENR Sec. Ramon Paje and his leadership team.

Furthermore, President Aquino’s Executive Order No. 23 declaring a national moratorium on cutting of timber in natural and residual forests and establishing the Anti-Illegal Task Force (AILTF) has been severely undermined not only by Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa, Jr.’s signed memorandum about the additional exemptions in the ban, but also by related key decisions pushed by the present DENR leadership team.

We lament the irreversible death of many decades-old trees as a sacrifice for the DPWH’s Manila North Road (MNR) widening project that traverses the municipalities from Rosales to Sison in Pangasinan.

We are enraged that the DENR, the lead government agency tasked to conserve, protect, and rehabilitate the Philippine environment gave its imprimatur for the massive destruction of trees through its Special Tree Cutting and Earth-Balling Permit No. 2013-10 issued in November 2013.

The permit targets cutting one thousand eight hundred twenty nine (1,829) trees in the six Pangasinan municipalities of Sison, Pozzorubio, Binalonan, Urdaneta, Villasis, and Rosales. During the recent national holidays, travellers on their way to Baguio or the Ilocos were greeted with the deplorable sight of hundreds of felled trees by the roadside.

We want to save the remaining trees still standing and to prevent such other onslaughts on our priceless natural environment.

The special permit signed by the Regional Executive Director (RED) of DENR’s Region 1 states that a clearance was given by the DENR Central Office’s leadership. The special tree cutting permit was, ironically, printed on DENR stationary with the footer “Join the National Greening Program, Plant Trees.” Instead of planting and protecting trees, the DENR has facilitated their destruction.

It is appalling that the negative implications of this massive government tree-cutting for the MNR widening and other DPWH projects are being rationalized or toned down by President Aquino’s billion-peso-funded lead reforestation program mandating that “every tree cut shall be replaced by planting 100 seedlings preferably of indigenous tree species . . . in support of the National Greening Program (NGP) and climate change initiatives of the government.” Both the DENR and DPWH seem to miss a glaring reality—that seedlings to replace the hundreds of trees cut will need decades to grow to the size of the full-grown trees destroyed. And in all those decades we shall be reaping the illnesses that those precious full-grown trees would have prevented or healed.

These agencies have glossed over the fact that trees lining the national highway along Pangasinan have all these years helped trap the poisonous greenhouse gasses responsible for global warming and climate change. They have furthermore not only provided cooling, shade, and oxygen for residents and motorists along the highway, but have also brought water to underground aquifers and have minimized the impact of floods by preventing erosion and sedimentation.

We ask the concerned government agencies to stop further cutting, harming, injuring, earth-balling or transferring of the remaining trees planted along the stretch of the Manila North Road in Pangasinan.

We also hope and pray that President Aquino and our green champions in the Senate will order a comprehensive probe of the implementation of E.O. 23, and at this time especially of the controversial tree-cutting permit issued by the DENR for DPWH’s MNR widening project and the processes related to its Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC), as well as the illegal logging in 2012 by an alleged DPWH contractor in the Mangatarem forests.

Hindi natin dapat payagan na maging imahen ang maraming patay na puno sa loob ng kagubatan at pati na sa gilid ng highway — bilang halimbawa o simbolo ng “Matuwid na Daan.” Bagkus, sama-sama tayong magtaya at magkapit-bisig para itaguyod ang Matuwid na Daan patungo sa Makakalikasang Pag-unlad ng ating Inang Bayan.

Appeal signed this 25th day of January 2014, by

An Urgent Appeal to Prevent Destruction of Trees in Pangasinan

Angelina P. Galang, Ph.D.
GREEN CONVERGENCE for Safe Food, Healthy Environment, and Sustainable Economy

Bishop. Broderick Pabillo
Head, Committee on Public Affairs – CBCP
Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines

Fr. Edwin A. Gariguez
Executive Secretary
National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace (CBCP-NASSA)

Fr. Robert Reyes, OFM
Running Priest and Anthropologist

Fr. Joel Tabora, S.J.
Ateneo de Davao University

Emy Perez
Social development specialist
Municipality of Pozorrubio, Pangasinan

Norman V. Cabrera
Kapatiran Party

Esther M. Pacheco
Concerned Citizens Advocating Philippine Environmental Sustainability (COCAP)

Antonio Claparols
Ecological Society of the Philippines (ESP)

Patria Gwen M.L. Borcena, M.A.
Greenresearch Environmental Research Group

Atty.Galahad A. Pe Benito
Environmental Legal Counsel
Greenresearch Environmental Research Group

Atty. Francisco S. Yabut
Founding President
Public Interest Law of Angeles City (PILAC)

Cecile Yumul
Save the Trees (STC -Pampanga)

Javier Claparols
Ecological Society of the Philippines (ESP)

Rene D. Pineda, Jr.
Partnership for Clean Air (PCA) Inc.

Victoria Segovia
Executive Director
Philippine Clean Air (PCA)

Gigi Chua
Consumer Rights for Safe Food (CRSF)

Erlie Lopez
Consumer Rights for Safe Food (CRSF)

Merci Ferrer
Health Care Without Harm Asia

Shen Maglinte
Deputy Director
Sibol na Agham at Teknolohiya, Inc. (SIBAT)

Monina Geaga
Secretary General
Kasarian – Kalayaan (Sarilaya)

Jaybee Garganera
National Coordinator
Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM)

Bro. Martin Francisco, bsmp
Sagip Sierra Madre Environmental Society, Inc. (SSMESI)

Juju Galvez Tan
Chief Operating Officer
Fostering People’s Education, Empowerment and Enterprise, Inc. (FPE3)
Rodne Galicha
Executive Director
Sibuyan Island Sentinels League for Environment Inc (Sibuyan ISLE Inc.)
The Climate Reality Project – Philippines Climate Leaders

Fernando M. Ramirez
Program Development Unit
Foundation for the Philippine Environment (FPE)

Eric Manalang
ProLife Phlippines Foundation Inc.

Teddy Brul
National Vice President

Renato Dela Cruz,
National President
Aniban ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (AMA)

Resurreccion Lao
Executive Director
Economic, Cultural and Social Rights (ECSR –Asia)

Dr. Nymia Pimentel Simbulan
Executive Director
Philippine Human Rights Information Center (PHLRIGHTS)

Max M. de Mesa
Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA)

Sammy Gamboa
OIC, Office of the Secretary General
Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC)

Perla A. Visorro
Cagayan Valley Partners in People Development (CAVAPPED)

Yoly R Esguerra
National Coordinator
Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc.

Genevieve Balance-Kupang, Ph.D.
President, Saint Paul Compound, Homeowners Association
Institutional Researcher, St. Paul College, Pasig
Core Group Officer, Mandala Peace Arts Initiative Inc. and Ang Komunidad Para sa Ika-uunlad ng Tao, Inc.

Emma Porio, Ph.D.
Chair, Environment Committee
Alta Vista Village Homeowners and Residents Association

Rex Arcadio R. San Diego II
Head Teacher-III, English Department
Ismael Mathay Sr. High School

Anna Marie Baligod – San Diego
Education Program Specialist-II
Bureau of Secondary Education, Department of Education Central Office

Sr. Eden L. Orlino, SPC
Social Action Commission
Diocese of Bayombong

Ellen Teague
Columban Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Office
London, United Kingdom

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