Environmental advocates quiz 'No Objection' resolution on cutting of Naga City trees

NAGA CITY (Bicol Standard) -- A coalition of volunteer environmental advocates is opposing the indiscriminate cutting of trees in Naga City by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) with support from the City Government. 

In a letter to the officials of the local government unit of Naga furnished to the Bicol Standard, the group sought answers to the following questions and a clarification of the position and processes with regard to people participation in policy formulation and decision-making:

"a. Was there any informed public consultation prior to the SP’s adoption of a `NO OBJECTION’ Resolution on March 20, 2018?
b. Why was the NO OBJECTION to the DPWH projects sought during the CDC meeting on April 12, 2018 when the SP had already adopted a NO OBJECTION expression on March 20, 2018? 
c. Did the SP present any evidence-based data for the SP NO OBJECTION Resolution during the CDC meeting?
d. Did the SP City Development Council consider at all the on-going protest against indiscriminate cutting of trees in Naga roads by civil society constituents?"

The group furthermore underscored that as civil society constituents, "we do not simply oppose. We take proactive and productive actions when good governance is threatened. We honor the genuine meaning of `People Empowerment’ as stated in the Naga City’s Empowerment Ordinance No. 95-092 of 1995."

"As such, and for love of Naga City, we have undertaken the following initiatives not only to prevent indiscriminate cutting of trees in Naga roads but also to contribute to the process of achieving effective environmental governance:

1. Submission of a Petition Letter
2. Tree Planting along Magsaysay
3. Inventory of Philippine Native Trees
4. Proposed Pedestrian-Friendly Road Design
5. Ocular Inspection together with DPWH and DENR
6. School Forum"

It would be recalled that Resolution No. 2018-323 or "A resolution expressing no objection to the cutting of affected trees of various kinds that may be found along the road right of way or which may be affected by road-widening projects of the Department of Public Works and Highways along Maharlika Highway, MT Villanueva Avenue, San Felipe-Pacol-Carolina-Panicuason Road, and such other national and major roads within the traditional jurisdiction of Naga" was passed earlier this month by the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Naga.

Meantime, in a Facebook post, Mayor John Bongat explained:

"1) There are no 1,000 trees to be cut by City Hall;

2) The city will not cut any tree. If at all, it is the DPWH, being the one requesting it;

3) The approving authority re requests of such nature is not the city govt but the DENR, after compliance with legal and environmental conditions;

4) The standing policy of the city govt is tree relocation, not tree cutting, where a tree for instance already poses danger to life and limb, a bounden duty it must perform;

5) All of these road widening projects of national roads was started during the Pnoy administration and is being pursued by the Duterte govt, thru the DPWH, with the primary aim of promoting public good;

6) Naga happens to be one of thousands of localities nationwide traversed by these highways, and elsewhere in the country, road widening of highways is happening left and right and has affected trees in the process;

7) I have advised the Sangguniang Panlungsod to hear the sentiments of sectors in the city opposing DPWH projects resulting in clearing of obstructive trees

 8) While it is true that the city council did not object to such road widening by DPWH, and in effect to tree relocation or clearing affected thereby, the decision is based on their sound judgment as, for instance, it will necessarily address the worsening traffic condition in these roads in particular, networked with the rest of the city's major thoroughfares to improve traffic management and minimize congestion, an issue that has gotten the ire not only of some but of all sectors

 9) I have advised the Sangguniang Panlungsod to rehear issues being raised by some sectors and broaden consultative mechanisms regarding divisive issues like tree relocation or clearing, a matter they have graciously heeded."