Lawyer files petition to stop roadside trees from being cut

PERMIT ISSUED. Trees on Don Gil Garcia St. in Barangay Capitol Site, Cebu City were cut down last September with government approval. (Amper Campaña)

A CEBUANO environmental activist wants to protect roadside trees from being permanently removed.

Lawyer Benjamin Cabrido Jr. filed a petition for a Writ of Kalikasan with urgent prayer for the issuance of a temporary protection order before the Court of Appeals in Cebu City on Thursday afternoon, Oct. 3, 2019.

The Writ of Kalikasan, defined by Preda Foundation, is a legal remedy that provides for the protection of one’s right to “a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature,” as provided for in Section 16, Article II of the Constitution.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) 7, through the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (Cenro) Cebu City, issued a Special Tree Cutting Permit on Aug. 30 to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) 7, in accordance with DENR Administrative Order (DAO) 2018-16.

The permit allowed the DPWH 7 to cut four narra and one mahogany trees on Don Gil Garcia St. in Barangay Capitol Site in Cebu City.

Last Sept. 21, the DPWH started removing the trees.

In the copy of the petition that Cabrido posted on his Facebook page Thursday, Oct. 3, he argued that the permanent loss and destruction of roadside trees proceeding “from an invalid policy” (referring to DAO 2018-16) violates the right of ecology of current and future Filipinos.

“Tree removal or cutting is therefore anathema to these initiatives to combat global warming. It should be resorted to only in extreme necessity like when a tree is dying and never as an option for convenience,” his post read.

He said the cutting of the roadside trees violated Republic Act (RA) 3571 or the Act Prohibiting the Cutting, Destroying, or Injuring of Planted or Growing Trees, Flowering Plants and Shrubs or Plants of Scenic Value along Public Roads, in Plazas, Parks, School premises, or in any other public pleasure ground, among others.

He cited Section 3 of RA 3571, which prohibits the cutting, deDuring stroying, or injuring of roadside trees except when these are done in instances of public safety concerns or such pruning of the same is necessary to enhance its beauty.

However, cutting or destroying can only be done pursuant to the recommendation of the local government unit (LGU) committee and subsequent approval of the director of Parks and Wildlife, he said.

Moreover, the law also mandates that in approved cutting, destroying, or pruning of roadside trees, such activity must be under the supervision of the committee concerned.

He said the DENR “grossly” violated these provisions of RA 3571 when it enacted on July 18, 2018 the DAO 2018-16.

Under DAO 2018-16, Cenro is the one authorized to approve tree cutting permits, which Cabrido deemed “a direct contravention” to the law.

According to him, nowhere in the DAO 2018-16 does it mention that the recommendation in the cases of tree cutting must emanate from the LGU committee on parks and wildlife.

In a Sept. 24, 2019 press statement released by the DENR 7, it said the DENR came up with revisions of its tree cutting rules after delays in the processing of tree cutting permits were identified as one of the causes of the slow implementation of the government’s “Build. Build. Build” program.

Cabrido, in the petition, also called for the declaration of DAO 2018-16 as “illegal and violative” of the Filipinos’ rights to ecology.

He also asked for a rehabilitation and restoration of those roadside trees already cut or destroyed pursuant to DAO 2018-16.

SunStar Cebu has yet to get the updated statement of the DENR on this matter. (RSR)


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