DPWH aborts P100-M road widening project to preserve 651 decades-old trees

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By Manilyn Ugalde

NAGA CITY, Camarines Sur, 30Sept2013 (PNA) – Department of Public Works and Highways secretary Rogelio Singson has ordered the withdrawal of the P100-million fund for a road widening and concreting project here.

The move, Singson said, is in respect to the sentiments of various sectors against the cutting of 651 decades-old giant trees planted along both sides of the highway.

DPWH regional director Danilo Dequito confirmed over the weekend Singson’s order to withdraw the project in favor of the preservation of the old-grown trees that city residents claimed “have been giving life and beauty to the national highway.”

The said national road has been serving as the favorite hangout of both the elderly and young citizens for their daily jogging, walking and cycling activities.

“We can always find a way to realign the funding for the contested project to avoid angering environmentalists,” Dequito quoted the secretary as saying.

Earlier, he argued that adding lanes at both sides of the national highway cannot be realized without cutting the trees as the project has to be completed as scheduled.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) had already given the permit to cut the trees as early as May.

The PNA learned, however, that the local DENR office had already withdrawn the permit it granted the DPWH to cut the trees following Singson’s order to realign the P100-million fund. ­

The road widening covers the stretch cutting through barangays Concepcion Pequena, Concepcion Grande, Mabolo and Del Rosario leading to the entrance of the city — known as the heart of the Bicol region.

Reacting to Singson’s decision to respect the clamor for the preservation of the trees, Naga City Mayor John Bongat said the secretary’s act demonstrates President Aquino’s reliance on the voice of the people.

Singson was among the resource persons during the recent investigative seminar sponsored by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism in Manila where he was asked about his decision on the stiff opposition to the P100-million road widening project here as it means the cutting of 651 decades-old trees.

“I have already instructed the regional office in Bicol to look for another site where the funds could be diverted while the DPWH will just construct a bike lane in the area,” Singson was quoted as saying.

The Naga City People’s Council (NCPC) had initially questioned the P100-million project since last May and asked that the funds be transferred realigned to the expansion of the nearby Almeda Highway, arguing that the cutting of the old trees is against the national government’s greening program to plant at least one billion trees.

The NCPC’s protest drew strong support from other organizations and the Naga City Council.

NCPC officials said it would be resentful and painful to see these old trees condemned just to give way to a road widening project that is not needed anyway since traffic in the area is not a problem. (PNA)

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