VIRAC, Catanduanes: A Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge here is requiring convicted environment violators to plant a minimum of 100 trees with conditions the trees are nurtured during the period of their sentence.
But RTC Judge Lelu Contreras clarified in her order that only those covered by probation shall be required to plant trees.
Regional Development Council for the Bicol Region Chairman Gov. Joey Salceda of Albay, an environmentalist, hailed Contreras’ action because that will help solve the problem of dwindling forest reserves in the region. Quoting Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) reports, Salceda lamented that of the 543,689 hectares of Bicol forest land, only 155,689 hectares remained forested as of 2011 records because of widespread timber poaching, illegal logging and other destructive activities.
Contreras’ action to require convicts on probation because of environmental violations have been readily accepted by the province parole and probation officer Bernardo Matamorosa and Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer Joaquin Guerrero. The tree planting activity for convicts under probation is covered by a memorandum of agreement signed by Contreras, Guerrero and Matamorosa. Probation convicts are those sentences for imprisonment with a maximum period of six years.
According to Guerrero, there are 29 convicts in Catanduanes under probation for violating Presidential Decree 705 or the Forestry Reform Code of the Philippines. This would mean at least 2,900 new trees for the province will be added from the planting activities of the convicts.
Matamorosa said there are three more convicts who violated the forestry law and are awaiting their papers for probation. The tree planting was started as early as August with the planting site to be identified by the DENR, however, nearer the probationer’s residence.