CITY OF SAN FERNANDO – Environment authorities here filed criminal charges against a school principal in Olongapo City for ordering the cutting of trees inside a school campus without permit from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
In his report to DENR Secretary Jose “Lito” Atienza, Executive Director Antonio Principe of the regional DENR in Central Luzon said formal charges were filed against Ellen Aggabao, principal of Olongapo City National High School (OCHNS) for ordering the cutting of eight trees of mango, duhat, acacia, eucalyptus and gmelina without clearance from the DENR.
The cut trees have a total volume of at least 700 board feet worth several thousand pesos.
“This is a clear violation of our environmental laws. The offense is a crime against the environment and our people. We will not tolerate this kind of abuse,” Principe said in a press statement.
In an administrative adjudication conducted by the DENR Community Environment and Natural Office (CENRO) in Olongapo City, Principe said Aggabao personally admitted her failure to secure a tree cutting permit from the DENR and acknowledged not being aware that a permit to cut is required by the DENR.
The DENR brushed aside Aggabao’s excuse saying ignorance of the law excuses no one and that no one is above the law.
“Let this be a warning to all who would disregard our environmental laws. It is unlawful to cut trees without clearance from the DENR. Anyone who will be caught violating this law will be dealt with swiftly and decisively,” Principe warned.
He said the school principal violated Section 3 of Presidential Decree 953 which required the planting of trees in certain places and penalizing unauthorized cutting, destruction, damaging and injuring of certain trees, plants and vegetation.
He said Aggabao also violated Section 68 of PD 705 or the Forestry Reform Code of the Philippines.
The DENR also filed criminal charges against Erick Nathaniel Ellano of JATI Construction and Supply, the contractor hired by OCNHS to cut down the trees, reports showed.
As this developed, the DENR also filed criminal charges against three suspected illegal loggers in Zambales after being caught in a joint operation by the DENR office in Masinloc and the 24th Infantry (Wildcat) Batallion.
Nelson Gorospe, DENR provincial chief in Zambales said criminal charges were filed against Glenn Namuka Litauen, Villamor Aten-an, and Armando Mariñas, all from Pangasinan, for cutting trees along the newly constructed Zambales-Pangasinan road project of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
He said the DENR confiscated the chainsaw used by the suspects and recovered cut Tanguile tree with a volume of 1,378 board feet worth at least P22,000.
Tanguile is a premium species whose cutting is regulated by the government.
Gorospe said the suspects violated Section 68 of PD 705 and Republic Act 9175 or the Chainsaw Act of 2002. The mere possession and use of unregistered chainsaw is a violation of the law, he added.
Earlier, Principe ordered the regional DPWH to stop the cutting of trees and ordered the agency to secure necessary tree cutting permit and environmental compliance certificate from the DENR before they could proceed with the construction of the Sta. Cruz, Zambales and Mangatarem, Pangasinan road project.
“Even government projects must secure environmental clearances and permits before they could begin construction. No one is above the law. The law applies to all,” Principe said.
Citing reports, he said the DPWH has applied for a road right of way, but the road project will have to pass through a natural stand of Mindoro Pine forest in the Zambales section.
Principe said a three-kilometer road, 15-20 meters wide, have already been constructed, and that about 1.5 kilometers of road will pass through the dipterocarp forest.
DENR field personnel in Zambales received strict instructions to seize all illegally cut forest products, conveyances, tools and equipment in the area and to file necessary criminal charges against the perpetrators.
Atienza recently declared 2009 as Law Enforcement Year to give more emphasis on the protection of environment and natural resources and put more dedication and seriousness on the implementation of environmental laws and policies.