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Toledo city: DENR sues developer, contractor over failure to turn over 982 trees

Kristine B. Quintas/NSA (The Freeman) - November 12, 2015 - 9:00am

CEBU, Philippines - The failure of the developer and its contractor to turn over about 1,000 trees to local officials of Toledo City prompted government foresters to instantaneously file charges against them today. 

The Community Environment and Natural Resources Office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources  also did not push through with yesterday’s technical hearing due to such failure.

CENRO head Forester Raul Pasoc said cases would be filed before Toledo City Prosecutor’s Office in violation of the forestry laws, particularly Section 77 of the Presidential Decree 705 for cutting, gathering and collecting timber or other forest products without license.

However, he refused to divulge possible respondents of the charges. In similar cases like this, though, CENRO usually presses charges against the contractor, developer, holder of the environmental compliance certificate and personnel involved in the crime.

The case stemmed from the cutting of 982 naturally planted trees without clearance from DENR and permit from CENR office. The tree species were century-old lamio tree, tipolo, pangantoon, bangkal, bagalunga, lanutan, acacia, narra, mahogany and gmelina, among others. 

The total volume of trees cut is approximately 2,190 cubic meters or equivalent to 928,560 board feet with an estimated cost of 18.5 million pesos. One board foot is equivalent to 20 pesos. 

This resulted to the issuance of a cease and desist order last month against contractor Sun Asia Energy Inc. through its project manager Jose Enrique Tolentino and the summoning of the latter and other entities for a technical hearing at 9 a.m. yesterday to shed light on the issue and to determine person/s responsible in the cutting. 

Unfortunately, Pasoc dismissed the hearing at past 9 in the morning yesterday when only Talavera barangay captain Nestor Mahinog and other foresters showed up. 

“What’s the use of proceedings when they are ignoring our directive? We decided to cut the proceedings and pursue the charges. Adto na sila mo-explain sa court,” he said. 

“Lapse g’yud na sa developer ngano nagputol sila wala’y cutting permit,” he added. 

Pasoc said they directed the contractor to temporarily place the felled trees on a 2,000 square meter identified depository area, which is one and half kilometers from Talavera barangay hall, for inventory and scaling.

He added that his personnel went to Talavera Wednesday to check the trees, but reportedly they were barred from entering the premises of First Toledo Solar Energy Corp.

Pasoc still did not change his decision to file cases against the perpetrators and also did not push through with the hearing even when representatives of First Toledo Solar Energy, the developer of the renewable energy project in Toledo, consequently showed up bringing a letter-request. 

The developer’s general manager Engineer Sammy Baybay personally handed the letter to Pasoc requesting his office for the deferment of the administrative hearing yesterday. 

“….please be informed that our management would like to request for postponement on the hearing date to November 26, 2015 at 9:00 a.m. for us to prepare the required sworn statement or affidavit to be prepared by our lawyers,” read the letter signed by Baybay. 

Pasoc refused to comment on the request, saying he will meet first with other environmental and forester officers to discuss the said appeal.    On the other hand, Mahinog summoned Tolentino, Sta. Clara International Corporation contractor Edgar Tiamzon, and land owner Gino Baltao for a meeting yesterday. 

He directed them to hasten the transfer of trees.

 “Gi-pressure g’yud sila aron matapok na ang kahoy,” he said, adding that the project contractor and developer promised to transfer the trees to the designated area.

Mahinog explained that the contractor is having a hard time transferring all the 982 trees because of the volume and mass as well as the lack of trucks that can lift and transport logs to the depository site. 

He said he deployed four watchmen to monitor and report any cutting of trees within the solar project. 

Moreover, Mahinog assured that none of the remaining trees in the area will be cut without the knowledge of the local government unit and CENRO.   CENRO said there are still at least 27 trees left untouched in the 113-hectare land.  (FREEMAN)

ACIRC CLARA INTERNATIONAL CORPORATION COMMUNITY ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES OFFICE OF THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES CONTRACTOR EDGAR TIAMZON ENGINEER SAMMY BAYBAY FIRST TOLEDO SOLAR ENERGY MAHINOG NBSP PASOC TREES
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