September 26, 2022

The proposal for a moratorium on the cutting of trees in Baguio remains contentious as issues about respecting rights over private property have been raised.
In the public consultation called by the city council committee on environment on Aug. 25, participants composed of barangay officials, developers, the City Environment and Parks Management Office, and the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources have agreed that the trees of Baguio have to be conserved to increase green spaces and to preserve the city’s biodiversity.
But private property owners said the ban on the cutting of trees should not be absolute.
The issuance of cutting permits by the DENR central office for a condominium project along Marcos Highway and the construction of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas office along Loakan Road are instances where despite protests from the community and local officials, permits have been issued as the areas where these projects are located are titled, according to Councilors Betty Lourdes Tabanda and Leandro Yangot, Jr.
Issuance of cutting permits is lodged with the DENR central or regional office depending on the number of trees to be cut. Local governments, on the other hand, may only issue emergency cutting permits.
It was only in May 2021 that former DENR secretary Roy Cimatu transferred the authority to issue permits for the cutting and balling of trees to its regional offices.
The transfer of authority is in compliance to Republic Act 11032 or the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018.
Executive Order 23 s. 2011 signed by then executive secretary Paquito Ochoa bans the cutting and harvesting of trees in natural and residual forests subsists up to the present but expanding its coverage to include private and even government property is a welcome development especially at this time where the country is making ways to adapt to climate change.
Instead of banning the cutting of trees, developers and property owners in Baguio, who attended the consultation, said the government should ensure compliance with laws regulating the cutting of trees.
Chamber of Real Estate Builders Association president Ramon Tagle said as far as developers of Baguio are concerned, they comply with the mandatory of replacement of cut trees and some have even included tree planting and tree tending as part of their corporate social responsibility.
A barangay official also suggested that owners should be allowed to develop and cut trees but in exchange, they should be made to plant trees at the periphery of their property as natural fence.
The proposed ordinance authored by former councilor Joel Alangsab and Councilor Levy Lloyd Orcales mandates a five-year moratorium on tree cutting on public land and government and private properties and may be extended by the city council.
The proposed penalty and fine are P5,000; confiscation of the lumber and tools used to cut trees; and one year imprisonment.
Inputs during the public consultation will be discussed by the city council in their upcoming sessions. – Rimaliza A. Opiña