Let the trees go to court

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Lawyer Antonio Oposa used to file several landmark cases with the Supreme Court on issues involving environmental protection.
He filed a case to compel government agencies to clean our seas, especially in the already polluted Manila Bay. He filed class action involving 43 minors asking the government to cancel timber licenses on the ground that rampant logging violated their constitutional right to a healthy environment.

Then supposedly representing the variety of fishes in the Visayan seas, he filed a case against massive illegal fishing. The Supreme Court favored his advocacy. In fact, the High Tribunal issued the “Writ of Kalikasan” to protect our environment from further deterioration and destruction.

Oposa’s one-of-a-kind personal crusade brought him international fame. He was made a Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation awardee.
This is the same Atty. Oposa who launched a “road revolution” by asking local government units in Metro Manila and in Cebu to bar motorists from major thoroughfares at least twice a month and allow people to walk there freely without fear of being hit by vehicles.


Now, why don't these so-called environmentalists and conservationists that are opposing the cutting of century-old acacia trees along Cebu’s southern highway allow the trees themselves to go to court and seek judicial remedy? For me, this would solve the issue.

Let those trees file a case in court so they won’t be sentenced with death penalty by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and local government units, whose chief executives want to have them cut because they pose a hazard to residents, motorists and commuters.

These environmentalists, especially the Movement for Livable Cebu, are not from the area so they don't feel the fear and anxiety of the people there and those who travel passing by that area. The members of this group live in high-end subdivisions.

Fr. Robert Reyes does not live there so he won't feel the worry of the residents that at any time these trees would topple.
What we have is a lobbying and publicity war. It is just unfortunate that those in favor of cutting the trees were outsmarted by those who opposed it. The protesters were able to pressure the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). The DENR blinked.

I also agree with the suggestion of Dumanjug Mayor Nelson Garcia that all mayors in the first and second districts should unite and file a case against DENR to force it to issue a cutting permit.

Don't misinterpret my stand. I am for environmental protection. But this is a case of choosing between saving decaying and diseased trees and protecting human lives. No ifs, no buts, I am definitely for the latter.

Meanwhile, here is a letter from one of our readers who only introduced himself as Mike about this issue. He lives in Argao and is a frequent traveler in the south highway.

“There is another factor that I haven’t seen mentioned by the media. The closest major trauma center for those in middle and south Cebu island is the South General Hospital in north Naga. To reach the hospital from the south, one has to completely go through the city of Naga. It’s bad enough with the road-widening project between Naga and Carcar but the highway represents the only way to get to the hospital from the south.

When one of these diseased trees falls and blocks the roadway, ambulances and people trying desperately to get to South Gen are stuck as well. Six or seven hours to clear these trees? It’s insane.

I cannot understand this. There must be politics involved. Reason and rationality have left the discussion. It’s shameful that people will have to die.

I will just say Amen to that.


Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 13, 2014.


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