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Court halts cutting of trees along road-widening routes

By Juan Escandor Jr. NAGA CITY---Acting on the complaint of an environmental group against the cutting of centuries-old trees along the route where the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) is undertaking its road-widening project, a regional trial court (RTC) here has ordered the temporary halt of tree-cutting through a Temporary Environmental Protection Order (TEPO) issued on Aug. 8. “The Court is convinced by the allegations in the Complaint as supported by the evidence adduced during the summary hearing that the matter is of extreme urgency and the plaintiff will suffer grave and irreparable injury if the cutting of trees will not be restrained,” according to the disposition penned by Judge Leo L. Intia of RTC Branch 27 here. In the complaint filed by Edgardo M. Castro and several others who represent the environmental group “They Grey, We Green,” they asked the court to issue a TEPO to save the trees along San Felipe Road and Magsaysay Avenue in Naga City. Also included under the TEPO are trees along Liboton-Magsaysay Road covering the Barangays of Liboton, Peñafrancia, Balatas and Concepcion, all within Naga City. Another area placed under TEPO is the Naga-Carolina-Panicuason Road, and the road along Barangay San Felipe here. The group noted that in May-June this year, more than 23 trees had already been cut along Magsaysay Avenue here. Reacting to the TEPO, Richard Ragragio, assistant district engineer of the second engineering district of Camarines Sur,that supervises the road-widening project, said they will abide by the order. But Ragragio said this will not stop them from pursuing their road-widening work in San Felipe Road, although trees along the route will be spared from being leveled off as per the court’s order. He clarified that since they will be obliged not to cut the trees, their work would result to having uncut trees standing in the middle of the pavement. Lucy Castañeda, spokesperson of the DPWH, confirmed that in cases where there are problems with tree cutting, the DPWH usually avoided cutting the trees but continues with the road work. Castañeda said DPWH RegionalDirector Danilo E. Versola will issue formal statement regarding the TEPO on Monday. The city government of Naga has approved the cutting of the trees along the road as revealed by a city councilor here during the regular session of the city council on Tuesday (Aug. 8). Councilor Salvador Del Castillo said that last year they have passed a resolution asking the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the DPWH to cut trees along the road within Naga City. Naga City Mayor John Bongat said they will respect the TEPO issued by the court. The court was convinced “by the allegations” of the complainants that “aside from the beauty, shade, clean and fresh air contributed by the trees, the trees absorb carbon dioxide while giving off oxygen.” The TEPO also cited the argument of the complainants that “(t)here is no evidence that widening of roads ease traffic congestion. On the contrary, when a road is widened, more cars pass just like the EDSA---a very wide road where traffic congestion is a daily occurrence.”

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