THE landowner whose area is located in “conservation and environmental critical area” in Marilog District had voluntarily stopped the cutting of the century-old trees in response to the criticisms and petition from locals, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said in a statement.

DENR-Davao Director Bagani Fidel Evasco said in a statement on Thursday, December 8, that his office will be issuing a suspension order to the Private Land Timber Permit (PLTP) dated August 18, 2021 and issued to landowner Ling-Ling Wu Lee.

However, Evasco said Lee has already desisted from cutting 121 trees located in Sitio Falcata, Macabol, Barangay Salaysay in Marilog.

The DENR official issued a statement a day after a letter addressed by Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio to the former said that the City Government supports the call of the environmental groups for the cancellation of the cutting permit issued by his office to chop off the trees in Mounts Makabol-Alikoson Conservation Area (MMACA) in Marilog as it is considered "an ancient nesting site" of the Philippine eagle.

Several issues have been thrown against DENR-Davao, of which Evasco, in an ambush interview on Tuesday, December 7, defended the issuance of the permit as it is in accordance with existing laws.

In the issued statement, he said that the issued PTLP No. RXI-001-2021 to the landowner was in pursuant to Presidential Decree No. 705, as amended, DENR Administrative Order No. 2020-21 “Revised Guidelines in the Issuance of Private Land Timber Permit/ Special Land Timber Permit (PLTP/SLTP) and DENR Administrative Order 2021-11 on the “Guidelines in the Processing and Issuance of Permits for the Cutting, Removal and Relocation of Naturally Growing Trees."

Lee reportedly applied for the cutting of 22 agoho, four bagtikan, 15 lauan, 44 tanguile, and 36 ulian trees with diameters ranging from 40 to 85 centimeters and an estimated harvestable volume of 131.06 cubic meters. The owner wanted to chop off the trees for land development purposes.

Evasco said his office was neither aware that the trees covered by the permit were nesting trees of the eagles, as claimed by the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF), nor privy to the metes and bounds of the declared Conservation Area and Environmentally Critical Area (ECA) in Barangay Salaysay based on the Watershed Code.

In response to the issue, he said DENR will coordinate with the City Government to validate and clarify if the areas and titled properties in Sitio Falcata are covered on the declared conservation area.

In addition, the office will also monitor and validate the area with regards to it being a nesting and roosting site of the Philippine Eagle.

"DENR XI office remains committed to rendering public service with utmost quality and integrity and shall always consider the welfare of the general public to be balanced with our wildlife conservation measures especially the Philippine Eagles and the forest ecosystem functions as a whole," the official said.

He also said his office "is also committed to implementing its mandate and priority programs guided by laws, rules and regulations."

PEF and SDM, in a joint statement, lauded the City Government's stand on their petition in support to prevent the cutting of these ecologically and culturally significant native trees in MMACA.

"Indeed, we need to protect our watershed for the present and future Dabawenyos and, we need to conserve the nesting ground of our critically endangered Philippine Eagle," the groups said.

"As Philippine Eagle symbolizes not only the pride of Davao or the country, it also symbolizes the aspirations and efforts of all organizations and communities working towards its protection," they added.

A week before, the group launched a signature campaign calling DENR to cancel the tree cutting permit. According to the group, the said campaign has reached nearly 5,000 signatures as of writing.