180,000 saplings for 1,829 dead trees

URDANETA CITY—Public works personnel will plant more than 180,000 tree saplings to replace the 1,829 trees that are in the way of a major road widening project in northern Luzon, an environment official said on Friday.
Fernando Estrada, city environment and natural resources officer here, said some 1,280 narra, acacia and mahogany trees had been cut to make way for the widening of the Manila North Road (MacArthur Highway) section that traverses this city and the Pangasinan towns of Sison, Pozorrubio, Binalonan, Villasis and Rosales.
The replacement saplings will be planted on a 100-hectare land in San Manuel town, Pangasinan province, he said.
Church leaders and environmentalists started a petition last week to save the remaining trees. The cutting or earth-balling of the trees alarmed motorists who saw these while driving up to Baguio City during the Christmas holidays.
Estrada said the only way to save the remaining 30 percent of the trees would be to stop the road widening project, which is being undertaken by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
“We have been closely coordinating with the DPWH if some of the trees can be saved, but they told us that their road widening project will be affected,” said Estrada in a telephone interview.
The DPWH began cutting trees in December last year after the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Ilocos regional office in San Fernando City, La Union province, issued a special tree cutting permit to the DPWH.
Permit extension
“Their permit [expires] in February but they are now requesting an extension because they have been experiencing some difficulty in cutting the trees,” Estrada said. He did not explain what had delayed the DPWH’s tree cutting operations.
Estrada said his office had been supervising the project to make sure that only those marked are actually cut.
“The DPWH has a project diagram where the location of trees affected by the project and recommended for cutting is indicated. We have an inventory of these trees,” he said.
Trees to chairs
The fallen trees are gathered in a depot, which Estrada’s office and the concerned local governments earlier identified.
“Actually, we are now preparing deeds of donation for local governments. The cut trees will be donated to them but these materials have to be converted into desks, chairs and tables to be donated to the Department of Education,” Estrada said.
He said the DPWH paid the DENR a bond of P5 million to ensure that the agency would fulfill its task to replace each tree cut with 100 new trees. Gabriel Cardinoza, Inquirer Northern Luzon