Mayor says he did not order cutting of 300 trees in Argao-A A +A
Thursday, April 24, 2014
ARGAO Mayor Edsel Galeos denied allegations he ordered the cutting of more than 300 trees in a timberland area in Sitio Binalabag, Barangay Jampang.
Galeos told Sun.Star Cebu that he merely granted the request of the barangay for workers and heavy equipment to construct a farm-to-market road in the area.
He said he assumed that all requirements were complied with, including permits from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), when the barangay council adopted a resolution appropriating funds for a farm-to-market road and forest eco-park in the village.
He said he was surprised upon hearing the news that the DENR filed a complaint for abuse of authority against him and five others before the Office of the Ombudsman for the Visayas.
The DENR accused Galeos and laborers Alex Birondo, Elbert Saniel, Arturo Bonachita, Jovani Espina and Alan Reyes of cutting 374 trees without permit, a violation of the Forestry Code of the Philippines.
The mayor said he will face the charges.
Lucio Tampipi and Martino Camello of the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (Cenro)-Argao executed affidavits saying they caught the five laborers in the act of cutting the trees at 11:30 a.m. last March 20.
Cenro-Argao said the cutting was done without a permit from the DENR.
After an initial investigation, the Cenro learned that the trees were cut to pave the way for the development of a road and an eco-tourism project, allegedly ordered by Galeos.
Galeos denied knowledge of the cutting.
He said that in 2011, the barangay council of Jampang requested him to construct a farm-to-market road there. But he denied the request because the barangay was not able to secure documents, like a DENR permit to cut the trees.
He said the barangay council later adopted a resolution asking the DENR for technical assistance in conducting an inventory of trees in the area and obtain a cutting permit.
The mayor said that when the barangay council adopted early this year a resolution allotting funds for the project, he assumed that it had secured a permit from the DENR.
He later learned that the DENR issued a cease-and-desist order against the farm-to-market road.
The Cenro in Argao invited Galeos and the five laborers to a technical conference earlier this month, but it reportedly didn't push through.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 25, 2014.