Like the sound of bells ringing in far distance, the cries of the Acacia trees along Mac Arthur Highway made it to the Senate. On Wednesday (July 29), Senator Jamby Madrigal will join the Save the Trees Coalition led by known environment advocates Cecille Yumul, the group Concern, Ching Pangilinan, Rev. Fr. Marius Roque of the Metropolitan Cathedral, Lito Ocampo of FEDHOA, Alaya Chamber of Arts and others in a public protest against the cutting of trees in the City of San Fernando.
The group is planning to set the public hearing and rally at the San Fernando City Hall Atrium. At least 100 participants, mostly leaders of various non-government organizations, are expected during the rally and public hearing. An ocular inspection of the cut trees will also be conducted before the hearing.
During a dialogue with the DENR Region 3 officials last Thursday, the Save the Trees Coalition solicited the support of Dir. Antonio Principe with regard to their request to re-open the issue before the Regional Development Council (RDC). Earlier, the group learned that the RDC has passed a resolution approving the cutting of trees based on the recommendation of the DPWH Region 3 and endorsement of the Pampanga Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Pamcham).
Principe said he will revive the talks on the said trees before the RDC and also vowed to relay the sentiments of the group to DENR national office. Principe said the DENR only issued a permit to cut the 40-year old and 50-year old trees based on the request of the DPWH for its road-widening activity as part of the Mac Arthur Highway Rehabilitation Project.
Of course, before their meeting with the DENR, the group already talked with the DPWH Region 3. In an earlier dialogue with the agency, the DPWH pointed to DENR as the one which issued a permit to cut some 1,200 trees. However, due to pressure from the opposing groups, the DPWH made a public announcement for a temporary suspension of the cutting activities.
At least, the Save the Trees Coalition had a small victory there and a big relief for the Fernandinos who will surely reap the ill-effects of losing decades-old trees. It was said that a 40-year old Acacia tree can hold tens of thousands of liters of water. And in the case of the City of San Fernando, they need the trees along Mac Arthur more than ever because of the perennial flooding in the city. If more trees will be killed, it means more rain and flood waters for the city. It is not hard to do the Math.
I am sure this battle has just begun. The DPWH, DENR and all those responsible for the cutting of these trees are surely in for a bigger fight. Sen. Madrigal is slated to conduct a full-blown Senate hearing on the matter and should the national agencies concerned insist on pushing the cutting activity, the senator is serious in getting a temporary restraining order (TRO) if only to save the rest of these trees.
I remember Sen. Madrigal in a peculiar case several years ago when she sued someone who cut a century old tree inside the premises of his assumed property. At least the senator is consistent.
On a different note, I am quite excited to see the tourism café being plugged by the Clark Development Corporation (CDC) and the Philippine Exporters Foundation, Region III, Inc. The two entities recently signed a lease agreement for the establishment of a facility that would showcase locally made export-quality products.
They plan to put up a tourism café, lifestyle showroom, trading house and pasalubong center for manufactured products in Central Luzon. It would rise in a 1,543-square meter area along C.M. Recto Highway inside the Clark Freeport Zone. They will display furniture, home accessories, lanterns, and food products, among others.
"Central Luzon, specifically Pampanga, is the home to the country’s finest furniture makers whose products found their niche in equally finest stores in the world,"CDC President Benny Ricafort said.
Well and good for our manufacturers and exporters. Since the recession hit Asia and the peso-dollar exchange rate continue to fluctuate, the exporters were badly affected. Most of them already closed shop while others were prompted to retrench workers for cost-cutting. It is also a relief to see them taking a bold step in signing for a new lease agreement with CDC, marking their commitment to help boost the national economy.