IT IS Christmas—a joyful reminder of God's great love
through the birth of Jesus Christ. As a way of celebrating a
meaningful Christmas, members and friends of the Save the Trees
Coalition (STC) are renewing their duty as stewards of God's
This December 15, Wednesday at 3 p.m., we are doing a human chain
to protest Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH)
Secretary Rogelio Singson's lifting of the suspension order to
cut trees. As a result, DPWH Region III has cut more than 12
trees: 1 in front of San Fernandino Hospital, 4 in Quebiawan, 1
in San Isidro, 4 in Pilar Village, 3 before Del Rosario
Intersection, and 2 before Sindalan near St. Anthony's Drugstore.
These are 15 trees in all.
On this occasion too, the STC shall start the "Parol sa Puno
Campaign" by hanging small handmade lanterns on trees that are at
risk of being cut by the DPWH for its ongoing expansion project
on the Manila-North Road (MNR) in the City of San Fernando (CSF),
The "Parol sa Puno Campaign" encourages friends of STC to make
lanterns, banners and placards as forms of expressing their stand
and views on the issue. We hope that through these, President
Noynoy will get the message that we want an immediate stop to
DPWH's killing of trees, that we want the trees to live to give
us oxygen, to take in carbon dioxide and other harmful fumes, to
absorb rainwater to be able to reduce floods and increase
groundwater stock, to provide us shades and to work as safety
buffer for more than 10 schools and 30 villages along the CSF
stretch of the MNR.
The cutting of trees is tantamount to violating the right of the
people to a balanced and healthy environment. This has been the
message of the STC since 2009 when, through protests and
dialogues, environmentally-concerned Kapampangans succeeded in
stopping the cutting of more than 5,000 trees.
But in October 2010, the DPWH proceeded to cut trees in violation
of our agreements in a July 14, 2010 tree summit. (The agency
promised not to cut trees anymore. It promised to consult with
civil society groups.) The City Government of San Fernando
consented to the cutting of 36 trees, a move that does not speak
well of its being a champion of good governance.
Worse, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)
has been quiet, if not indifferent, through all these
developments, not even intervening to facilitate dialogues in
2009 and even in the present. Although DENR declares Heritage
Tree in St. Theresa's College, it has cut more than 150 trees in
Pampanga along MacArthur Highway to serve the road-widening. DENR
does not have to look far for other heritage trees: the trees in
Pampanga are more than 50 years old and they symbolize the
culture and persistence of Kapampangans to rise from any
difficulty, including the Mt. Pinatubo eruption.
With the recent target of cutting 36 trees, the STC managed to
convince Secretary Singson to spare the remaining 12 trees. Three
weeks ago, he went to Pampanga and met with Mayor Oscar Rodriguez
and DPWH Region III Director Alfredo Tolentino. (The secretary
came at 7 a.m. and did not even bother to call STC to the meeting
so at least he could get a perspective from the oppositors.) In
his State of the Nation Address (SONA) President Noynoy said,
"Kayo ang boss ko." "Kayo" refers to the Filipino people.
Unfortunately, Secretary Singson's bosses are Mayor Oca and
Director Tolentino. Last week, the secretary gave DPWH Region III
the green light to cut the 12 trees.
Matters have gotten worse, requiring the coalition to work harder
to defend the trees. In a media interview last December 7,
accompanying Mr. Aquino at Clark, Secretary Singson said only
trees along Balite will be spared. This means that along the
highway from San Agustin to Coke about 272 healthy trees will be
cut. What Singson followed is President Noynoy's slogan of "Daang
Matuwid"—only this time twisted to mean that there must be
no trees left standing in the road-widening project.
As this happened, Angeles University Foundation set a good
example of urban planning by earth-balling five trees and safely
moving them to Lakeshore. The DPWH had not resorted to this sound
option. Instead, the agency and its contractor made the trees
appear as obstacles in building a road right where the trees
stood. Two weeks ago, the pro-cutters, led by the Advocacy for
the Development of Central Luzon (ADCL) and Pampanga Chamber of
Commerce (PAMCHAM) initiated a tree-planting activity. They
should have realized that it's hard to grow trees because most of
what they had planted are now dead or wilting to death.
Those who favor tree cutting invoke progress. What progress are
we talking about? The third lane is now used as parking lot for
many vehicles. It has also exposed us to serious flooding: note
that the elevation of Angeles City is about the peak of the cross
of the Metropolitan Cathedral in the City of San Fernando. Even
if the canals are completed, they are too small to contain large
volumes of water. The DPWH has created a condition for disaster.
Pro-cutters also argue that widening the road will entice foreign
investors, resulting to more work for the Kapampangan.
With or without the MacArthur road-widening, foreign investments
would still come because they are here to make profit. They can
always use the North Luzon Expressway directly to Clark and
Diosdado Macapagal International Airport. Besides, the Foreign
Investment Act already gives investors perks and other tax
Granting that widening the highway would lead to more work
opportunities for Kapampangans, the sad part to it is that our
workers will receive only a pittance of the fruits of their labor
(low salaries to buy food and medicines). The pay will not
suffice to cover hospital expenses that workers will face because
of the increased pollution as a result of the tree-cutting.
According to Colorado Trees Coalition, a 50-year-old tree
generates $31,250 worth of oxygen, provides $62,000 worth of air
pollution control, recycles $37,500 worth of water, and controls
$31,250 worth of soil erosion.
As stewards of God's Creation, we must persist in this fight.
Tayong mga Kapampangan ay marangal at mapagkalinga sa