Court strikes down tree-cutting permits

SAVED. This lone tree survived the tree-cutting spree brought about by DENR-issued permits, which were struck down by the RTC. Trees in Naga City were cut in connection with the road-widening project of the DPWH. (Bicol Standard photo)

NAGA CITY (Bicol Standard)—Environmental advocates scored a win in their bid to strike down as void the Special Tree Cutting Permits (STCP) issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

By virtue of a 20-page decision by Judge Leo Intia of Branch 27 of the Regional Trial Court of Naga City released on November 16, 2018, the Court declared the assailed STCP as illegally-issued, hence null and void.

Accordingly, the Court also directed Defendants to pay the value of the trees cut as a result of the illegally-issued permit in the amount of P653,405.38 as actual damages; P50,000.00 as moral damages; and P50,000.00 as exemplary damages.

Further, the court issued a continuing mandamus ordering both plaintiffs and defendants to submit an inventory of the trees standing along public roads, in plazas, parks, school premises, or in any other public ground in Naga City within three months from receipt of the Decision.

Continuing mandamus is a writ issued by a court in an environmental case directing any agency or instrumentality of the government or officer thereof to perform an act or series of acts decreed by final judgment which shall remain effective until judgment is fully satisfied.

Meantime, the DPWH and DENR were also directed to regularly prune and trim the trees in Naga City for the safety of the public, aesthetics, and maintenance of tree health.

This is in accordance with the mandate and objectives of DPWH Department Order No. 93, Series of 2000, immediately but not later than the month of January 2019, and every six months thereafter, and to submit a Compliance Report to the Court not later than February and July of every year.

In case defendants DPWH and DENR fail to perform the task mandated by law as emphasized, plaintiffs, including minors and generations yet unborn are directed to perform the duty and tasks which defendants should fail to perform, at the expense of the defendants, without prejudice to the consequence of liability that defendants may be held liable as a consequence of their failure to perform their task under the law and as mandated in the Decision.

Finally, the Court made permanent the previously-issued Temporary Environment Protection Order (TEPO) insofar as the mahogany tree situated in Zone 2, San Felipe, this city, is concerned.

The same is the lone tree which survived the tree-cutting spree brought about by the assailed permits.