Provincial board to probe massive tree cutting in Pangasinan

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LINGAYEN, Pangasinan: The Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) has announced its intention to investigate in aid of legislation the continuous cutting of decades old trees along the highways in Pangasinan for the road widening project of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

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A report gathered by the SP said that of the 1,829 trees along the national highway in eastern Pangasinan, some 80 percent or 1,200 trees have already been cut since November 2012.

Vice Governor Jose Ferdinand Calimlim Jr. said the SP will invite officials from concerned agencies like those from the DPWH, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), as well as other persons involved or who initiated the cutting of trees in their regular session on March 3.

“What the provincial board only wants is for it to be apprised of the issue” said Calimlim, noting that advocacy groups from Pangasinan and other areas are protesting against the cutting of those decades old trees.

He said they would like to inquire on possible remedies to solve the issue of tree-cutting in the towns of Rosales, Villasis, Binalonan, Pozorrubio, Sison, and Urdaneta City to serve the purpose of road widening.

Previously, concerned individuals including Pangasinan Historical and Cultural Commission (PHCC) commissioner Virginia Pasalo and one Antonio Vila led a petition addressed to DENR Secretary Ramon Paje in a bid to stop the cutting of trees.

Their petition was uploaded at www.change.org on February 12, 2014.

As of Feb. 18, the petition already gathered 214 supporters and needs 286 more to reach its target of 500 petitioners.

Earlier, Former Pangasinan Fifth District Rep. Mark Cojuangco publicly admitted responsibility for the cutting of these trees in a talk to newsmen after the State of the Province Address (SOPA) of Governor Amado Espino Jr. last Feb. 10.

In that interview, Cojuangco said he was the one who applied for the permit to cut the trees.

Cojuangco, who just announced his intention to seek the position of governor of Pangasinan in the 2016 polls, said: “Those trees are not in the right place. They are inside the road’s right of way.”

A report of community environment and natural resources officer Fernando Estrada stated that about 70 percent or 1,280 trees along the highways from Sison to Rosales have already been cut since November 2012. PNA

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