LEGAZPI CITY: Saying only God can make a tree, Albay Governor Joey Salceda, who is also an environmentalist, asked for the head of the district engineer who ordered the cutting of 29 trees in the province for a road widening project.
Salceda said the “massacre” was allegedly perpetrated by Albay first district engineer Teodoro Castillo in the towns of Malinao and Tiwi and covered about 10 kilometers. He declared Castillo a persona non grata for ordering the cutting of 14 trees in Tiwi and 15 in Malinao.
Salceda appointed former provincial board member Arnold Embestro to head the province’s Environment and Natural Resources Office (ENRO) to immediately stop the cutting of trees and file charges against violators.
He also asked Embestro to plant more trees, enhance the biodiversity of Mayon Volcano Natural Park, collect quarrying fees from all franchisees, and file for a writ of kalikasan with the Supreme Court to stop all tree cutting activities for infrastructure under the provisions of R.A. 3571.
Salceda was dismayed after learning that the old trees at the roadside between Malinao and Tiwi were cut down by the Department of Public Works and Highways without his knowledge.
“As chief protector of the environment and the elected executive, I demand, in no uncertain and non-negotiable terms, the immediate transfer outside Albay of Castillo for acts inimical to the interest of our people and for putting at risk the future of our children,” he said.
Under R.A. 7160, Salceda said the provincial government is specifically and principally tasked with environmental protection.
Castillo could not be reached for comment but his information officer Teresita Manago confirmed the cutting of the trees due to road widening.
Earlier, the Citizens Crime Watch (CCW) asked for the relief of three Albay district engineers for failing to clear the national road of pedicabs and the drying of palay that interferes with the flow of traffic. CCW said this practice continues in spite of a memorandum from Secretary Rogelio Singson last year to clear the roads and impose penalties on violators.