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House gives DPWH authority to cut road-obstructing trees

The House committee on natural resources approved House Bill 4208 which seeks to authorize the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to cut, ball, transfer, dispose or plant trees when implementing national or local infrastructure projects such as, but not limited to, clearing of road right-of-way and site clearing, development or preparation.

The bill authored by Rep. Bayani Fernando (1st District, Marikina City) grants the DPWH exemption from securing tree cutting, earth-balling, transfer, disposal and planting permits from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and its agencies such as the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO), the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO), Forest Management Bureau (FMB) and the local government unit (LGU) concerned.

Rep. Arnel Ty (Party-list, LPGMA), committee chairman, said the bill is supported by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez (1st District, Davao del Norte) and Majority Leader Rodolfo FariAas (1st District, Ilocos Norte.

Ty said the Speaker and the Majority Leader gave them directives to call on the DENR and the DPWH to have some executive arrangement between the two government agencies to not wait for the approval of the bill and to start the balling out of trees which are obstructing roads and causing accidents.

The reason na nabanggit sa amin ni Speaker and Majority Leader, if you remember a few months ago, when we did the Mindanao Nautical Highway Inspection at yung North Luzon Highway Inspection, Ty said.

He said the Speaker and the Majority Leader ordered him and the chairmen of the committees on public works and energy to talk to the departments in charge of the issues.

Ty said the Department of Energy (DOE) and the DENR already signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) in removing electrical posts posts that are hazardous to motorists.

Fernando said he filed the bill to put the authority on roadways with the road engineers.

He explained the main consideration in the design of the roadways is safety for the motorists and the public as well as fast travel speed.

This is the sole province of the road design engineer who has the knowledge and the responsibility in ensuring that this primary design feature is followed. And in no way a forester or a DENR guy would know the requirements of the highway, he said.

Fernando said securing tree-cutting/earth-balling/transfer/disposal/planting permits from the DENR only delays the implementation of DPWH projects.

Fernando also requested the DPWH to buy five balling machine for each region, or 60 in all He said the LGUs are very much aware of the environment. It is the local governments actually that are planting the trees and they would not tolerate the indiscriminate cutting of trees.

Rep. Mark Go (Lone District, Baguio City) expressed concern that the DPWH, in general, is not engaged in local infrastructure projects.

Go proposed that the panel ask the Secretaries of the DENR, DPWH and DPWH to instruct all their regional directors to come up with an arrangement where the processing of the permits should be not more than 15 days so that the bill can be immediately implemented, pending its approval.

Rep. Joseph Stephen Paduano (Party-list, ABANG LINGKOD) proposed that a provision on who will be the custodial agency with regard to trees being cut and disposed be included in the bill.

Source: House of Representatives

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