DPWH: All trees along road right of way will be removed

DAGUPAN CITY — Environmentalists need not rejoice when some trees were spared by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) while implementing widening of major highways in Pangasinan and the entire Region 1.

This is in view of the declared policy of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in Pangasinan that all trees still standing along the road right of way will need to be cut or be removed.

This means that the trees that were spared from being cut, will eventually go being within the road right of way.

Officials of the four engineering districts in Pangasinan echoed this policy when they graced the Kapisanan ng Brodkasters sa Pilipinas (KBP) forum on Thursday at radio station DZRD.

Narchito Arpillera of 3rd engineering district said they wanted to cut all the trees still standing but they would need to first secure tree cutting permit from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) which was hard to obtain.

Imagine, you have to plant 50 tree seedlings for just a dead tree to be cut, said Emmanuel Barrozo, also of the third engineering district, underscoring the difficulty in getting the permit.

On the other hand, Bernardo Caronongan of the second engineering district admitted that in addition to the trees, there were many electric posts still standing on the widened roads that need to be relocated, citing those owned by the Central Pangasinan Electric Cooperative (Cenpelco).

Asked on who should bankroll the relocation of electric posts, Caronongan said it should be the electric cooperatives as well as the Dagupan Electric Corporation (Decorp) that own these electric posts, not the DPWH.

However, Cenpelco general manager Rodrigo Corpuz said they could not relocate their electric posts as this would involve huge capital expenditures of PHP350 million which the coop could not afford.

He said in earlier edition of KBP forum that the work would not only involve the relocation of electric posts from the road right of way but also the installation of new electric posts where the power lines would be transferred.

The road widening was already completed in the Pangasinan side of the Manila North Road (MNR) where up to 1,900 trees, many of them centuries old, were sacrificed.

In the northern side of MNR, particularly La Union, Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte, road widening is still ongoing but it appears that no trees are being cut,fueling speculation a separate policy might be in effect.

Menio Abarabar, also of the DPWH, insisted there was a uniform policy on road widening in Region 1 and hinted that the tree cutting permit of contractors of road widening projects in other provinces has yet to be issued.

DPWH officials said to avoid delays in the construction of other infrastructure projects lined up for next year, the new regional director had required them to apply tree cutting permits at this early while plans for these projects were still being prepared.

Meanwhile, Caronongan said narrow bridges were also being widened to complement the already widened roads, citing the Tanap bridge in Dagupan and the Gumapos bridge on Binmaley. LVM/PNA-northboundasia.com