PROMPTED BY UPROAR IN PAMPANGA
    DENR stops cutting of trees nationwide

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    City of SAN FERNANDO – Amid controversies triggered by the proposed cutting of some 5,000 trees along the 92-kilometer stretch of the MacArthur Highway in three provinces in Central Luzon, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has stopped the granting of permits and frozen all permits already issued on the cutting of trees all over the country.

    The regional office of the DENR here said the order was issued by Environment and Natural Resources Sec. Lito Atienza pending the formulation of new guidelines on tree cutting “in the light of the global problem on earth warming and climate change.”

    “Our technical men in the forestry sector are now studying technical, social, economic as well as environment-related issues involving tree-cutting and we hope to present whatever policy reforms they would come up with in a multi-sectoral consultation soon,” Lito Atienza was quoted to have announced.

    At a public hearing held here Wednesday, Sen. Jamby Madrigal, chairperson of the Senate committee on environment and natural resources, told the DENR to freeze the cutting and balling (uprooting of trees for replanting elsewhere) amid a P500-million project to widen the MacArthur Highway through Bulacan, Pampanga, and Tarlac.

    Thousands of the trees were already either cut or balled in Bulacan, but environmental and other groups in Pampanga prevented more trees from being cut as they held continuing protest moves that led to the Senate inquiry.

    Atienza has banned “on an interim basis the issuance of tree cutting permits” but that the DENR will still continue issuing earth-balling permits in areas where development projects have to be pursued, provided the uprooted trees as transplanted elsewhere.

    “Atienza urged developers to reorient their project designs in such a way that existing trees are preserved at all cost,” the DENR here said.

    Forester Marlo Mendoza, director of DENR’s Forest Management Bureau, said he will be proposing ”several technical considerations as to when tree cutting will be allowed and not allowed, and when earth-balling shall be required”.

    He said his proposal will cover special protection of “trees with historical significance like the Tandang Sora tree in Quezon City” , as well as detailed procedures in the balling and transplantation of trees under threat of extinction.

    Mendoza will recommend that only trees with a maximum size of 25 centimeters in diameter should be subject for earth-balling. “These trees should be planted immediately in an area identified by the DENR and should be maintained by the government for six months to ensure their survival,” he added.

    He said that such trees as apitong, kamagong, kalantas, malabayabas, molave, narra, and red lauan are among those threatened by extinction in Philippine forests.

    Mendoza noted that trees classified as “threatened” by the DENR are listed in DENR’s Administrative Order 2007-01.

    Mendoza added that the bureau will also be including in the new guidelines the mandatory installation of placards and signboards notifying the public about the earth balling and transplanting activities.

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