Cebu News

RTC denies mayor’s TRO appeal

Jessa Agua - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - The court denied the temporary restraining order sought by Argao Mayor Edsel Galeos as it issued a status quo order favoring the Notice to Stop (NTS) on the development of a municipal ecopark in the mountain barangay of Jampang where over 300 trees were reportedly cut.

In a June 9 order signed by Regional Trial Court Branch 26 in Argao, Judge Maximo Perez denied Galeos’ application for issuance of status quo ante order and temporary restraining order.

Perez cited Administrative Matter No. 09-6-8-C issued by Supreme Court on April 29, 2010 which states the “prohibition of against temporary restraining order (TRO) and preliminary injunction—Except the Supreme Court, no court can issue a TRO or writ of preliminary injunction against lawful actions of government agencies that enforce environmental laws or prevent violations thereof.”

“As indicated in the last paragraph of the ‘Notice to Stop,’ the said notice was issued in order to forestall further damage to the environment. In fine, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources through the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) Argao, Cebu, intended to enforce environmental laws or endeavored to prevent any violation thereof,” Perez’s decision read.

CENRO Argao chief Flordeliza Geyrozaga issued, on March 21, a Notice to Stop to the ongoing development within Classified Timberland Area in Mount Binalabag, Sitio Tac-an, Barangay Jampang. A portion of the area is part of the 2011 National Greening Program of the DENR.

“In order to forestall further damage to the environment, you are hereby enjoined to cease and desist from further undertaking any development within the area until after all the required feasible permits are secured and presented to this office. Failure to heed of  this notice, would constrain this office to take further appropriate action and resort to all legal measures to protect the environment from destruction,” said Geyrozaga’s Notice to Stop order addressed to Galeos.

In a statement sent to The Freeman, DENR Central Visayas lauded the court decision that junked the petition for TRO.

“We appreciate the decision of the court denying the status quo ante and temporary restraining order applied by the municipality of Argao on the ‘Notice to Stop’ issued by CENR officer Geyrozaga over a development in a timberland or forestland area in Jampang, Argao, Cebu. It goes to show  that the order to stop issued by Geyrozaga is consistent with and in conformity to the existing forestry laws, rules, and regulations,” said DENR-7 regional spokesperson Eddie Llamedo.

The state environment agency reiterated that it will continue to do its job of enforcing environmental laws that mandate the DENR.

“The DENR-7 will continue to enforce and implement the environmental laws as mandated by over 50 laws. We will not hesitate to crack the whip against persons or organizations for despoiling the environment,” the statement said.

The Freeman tried called Mayor Galeos for his statement on the decision but failed to get a response as of press time.

In a separate interview, Geyrozaga recounted the events that led to the issuance of the NTS.

According to the CENRO Argao chief, the affected residents reported to her office the cutting of trees within the NGP early March.

She said that her office was informed early March of the development in Mt. Binalabag which prompted her to summon the barangay captain to obtain pertinent information that led to the issuance of NTS.

“On March 20, caught in the act na nga nag-cutting sa area. The Notice to Stop was issued on March 21. What prompted me to issue that Notice to Stop was the conduct of illegal cutting either March 19 or March 20. That’s the only recourse and urgent necessity to prevent further damage. On March 24, nag-seek sila’g audience nako. The mayor was represented by his consultant who formerly worked with DENR, Pua, Administrator (Vip) Semilla, and Councilor Berundo,” Geyrozaga said.

With the issuance of the NTS, Galeos, representing the municipal government, sought for a temporary restraining order against CENRO Argao and DENR-7 represented by Regional Executive Director Isabelo Montejo.  (FREEMAN)

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