[Statement] Manifesto to save the precious trees threatened by government projects -CSAC

Civil Society Advisory Council (CSAC) – Philippines*
(World Environment Month, June 2014)


We, the Civil Society Advisory Council (CSAC) an advisory group to the United Nations in the Philippines, urgently call for the protection of the thousands of indigenous trees endangered by Philippine government projects.

Thousands of decades-old trees had been massacred as a sacrifice for infrastructure projects in Pangasinan, Laguna, Sorsogon, Baguio, Cebu, and other parts of the country. Even heritage homes such as those in Sariaya, Quezon are threatened by another controversial road widening project of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). Reports revealed the lack of proper and substantial public consultations prior to the issuance of many tree cutting permits, as well as the failure of government to preserve the constitutional right of people to a healthful and balanced ecology in these situations.

We are aggrieved that President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III’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 by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa JR.’s blanket approval of tree-cutting permits for government projects, as well as by related key decisions emanating from Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) leadership team under Sec. Ramon Paje.

The concerned government agencies do not seem to understand the negative implications of the mandate that every tree cut shall be replaced by planting 100 seedlings. They miss a glaring reality—that the seedlings to replace trees cut will need decades to grow to the size of the full-grown trees destroyed. And while waiting for these seedlings to mature, we shall be reaping the illnesses that those precious full-grown trees would have prevented or healed.

It is high time that civil society organizations (CSOs) synergize more effectively to challenge these flawed policy decisions that are inconsistent with the President’s Social Contract with the Filipino People and his government’s own avowed aim to pursue inclusive, climate-resilient and sustainable development. The government’s many actions actually put a premium on short-term economic gains over the conservation, protection, and rehabilitation (CPR) of the environment and natural resources that serve our country’s present and future needs.

We speak for the many hapless trees massacred as sacrifice for costly projects masked as “economic development” initiatives. The massive destruction indicates that the important lessons learned about climate change from super-typhoon Yolanda and other environmental tragedies have been lost on the DPWH and DENR.

We express our terrible grief for wounded Mother Earth and our anger over the DENR, which is tasked to conserve, protect, and rehabilitate the Philippine environment but which gave its imprimatur for the massive destruction of those precious trees that give us life and livelihoods!

Our country stands at a crossroad. What development path to the future should we take? The road to an inclusive, climate-resilient and sustainable development beckons.

We know that some infrastructures might really be needed to spur rural development. However, these government projects should not gloss over or be done at the expense of the ecological integrity, legitimate land rights, road safety, health and livelihood needs of present and future generations of Filipinos, specially the resident families, women, children and senior citizens in the concerned sites.

We laud local government units (LGUs) and political leaders such as Albay Governor Joey Salceda, Pangasinan Provincial Board, Naga City Government, and others which have practiced participatory governance and endeavored to pursue the right path of inclusive, climate resilient and sustainable development.

We declare our all-out support for the National Coalition to Save Trees and its concrete recommendations as follows:

· For the Philippine President — to immediately issue an order or memorandum setting aside, as null and void, the Memorandum from the Executive Secretary dated 16 July 2012 which approved all applications for tree-cutting permits by the DPWH forwarded by DENR;
· For the concerned national and local government agencies — to impose a moratorium in the cutting of trees along national and local roads until the completion of a comprehensive assessment with CSOs which aims to identify the implications of the DPWH projects on the environment, health and livelihood of communities, and find viable or other ways to save the trees;
· For the concerned LGUs, DENR and DPWH offices — to immediately restore or rehabilitate all the girdled trees and protect all the remaining trees from further degradation;
· For the Environmental Ombudsman and green courts — to immediately act on the cases about tree-cutting brought under the Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases, to enjoin the further cutting of decades-old trees along the national and local roads, for being in violation of environmental laws and regulations;
· For the green champions in the legislature — to initiate a thorough investigation of the massive tree-cutting in aid of legislation of a new comprehensive forest law (i.e. Forest Resources Bill) which will protect the few remaining natural (primary) and residual (secondary) forests in the country.

Ituloy ang Laban
para sa Matuwid na Daan patungo sa Makakalikasang Pag-unlad!
Civil Society Advisory Council (CSAC) – Philippines*
(World Environment Month, June 2014)

*Civil Society Advisory Council (CSAC) is a group of 15 organizations elected from the members of the United Nations Civil Society Assembly (UNCSA) acts as a policy platform of CSOs in relation to the United Nations in the Philippines.

Signed on June 26, 2014:

Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM),
Co chair and co-convenor of UNCSAC

Green Convergence for Safe Food, Healthy Environment and Sustainable Economy
(Green Convergence network)
UNCSAC’s Environment Cluster head

and other CSO networks in CSAC – Philippines:

Coalition for Bicol Development, Inc. (CBD)
Cordillera Network of NGOs and POs (CORDNET)
Eastern Visayas Network of Development NGOs (EVNET)
Fair Trade Alliance (FTA)
Foundation for Sustainable Societies Inc. (FSSI)
Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Manggagawang Impormal sa Pilipinas, Inc. (PATAMABA)
Philippine Legislators Committee for Population and Development (PLCPD)
Philippine Social Enterprise Network, Inc. (PHILSEN)

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