Cebu Province and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) officials plan to separately file administrative charges against the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Fourth Engineering Office for allegedly cutting trees along the highway in Badian town.
DENR forestry chief Juanito Pua said that Fernando Cruz, head of the DPWH Fourth Engineering District, and his personnel violated Presidential Decree (PD) 953 when they cut trees along the highway in Barangays Banhigan, Poblacion, Malhiao and Manduyong, all in Badian town.
PD 953 penalizes the unauthorized cutting of trees.
Pua said the officials, if proven guilty, may be imprisoned for not more than two years, dismissed and disqualified from holding any public office.
Cebu Provincial Attorney Marino Martinquila said the engineering district office may also be liable for having destroyed government property as the trees are considered properties of the provincial government.
Cruz’s personnel allegedly used a province-owned dump truck to haul the logs of the cut trees.
Cebu Capitol, through the Provincial Engineering Office, and the DENR are investigating the case to determine how many trees were cut.
Their initial estimate was 20 trees.
Cebu Provincial Engineer Eulogio Pelayre reported that among the trees cut were white silk cotton tree (kapok or doldol), mahogany, magtalisay, coconut, tamarind, jackfruit and star apple.
Pelayre said some of the cut trees were fully grown and several years old, judging from their sizes.
Capitol had distributed jackfruit seedlings to public schools in the towns to be planted along highways and campuses. Planting of trees and beautification of highways are part of the Cebu provincial government’s Expanded Green and Wholesome Environment that Nurtures (EGwen) program.
The incident prompted Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia to pull out last Thursday the two mini-dumptrucks and other equipment that Capitol lent to the DPWH Fourth Engineering District.
Capitol spokesperson Rory Jon Sepulveda said the equipment were supposed to help the district office improve highways in the towns.
He said it is ironic that DPWH is the one violating the law.
Section 3 of PD 953 states that “cutting, destroying, damaging or injuring of trees” is allowed if it is meant to ensure “public safety,” or if “pruning is necessary to enhance beauty.