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The Sangguniang Bayan (SB) of Narra together with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) created a special investigation team to determine who was behind the cutting down of 40 trees along Narra Parkway last October 2.
The issue was one of the main topics during the Question Hour of the Regular Session of the local legislative council on Monday, October 21.
Narra Vice-Mayor Crispin Lumba, in behalf of the SB members, invited Engr. Edgardo Parco, Narra Municipal Engineer; Raymund dela Rosa, Narra Emergency Rescue Unit (NERU) Head; DILG representative Leny Escaro, and Leonard Caluya, OIC-CENRO of Quezon.
“Ininvite po namin sila para sagutin ang mga issue kaakibat ng pagpuputol ng puno dito sa Narra Avenue,” Lumba said.
Meanwhile, Parco denied that his office had a hand on the cutting of trees and further revealed that he received a memorandum sometime on September coming from Narra Mayor Gerandy Danao wherein the local chief executive stated that Parco will no longer have the access to use all the heavy equipment as well as to give orders to employees of the local government unit, specifically mentioning the heavy equipment operators and employees from the Narra task-force otherwise known as Bantay Narra.
“I received a memo from the Narra Mayor’s office on September. Ang nakalagay po doon ay hindi na ako ang in-charge sa mga equipment at mga tao including sa mga employee ng motorpool,” Parco said.
The statement raised the eyebrows of the local council saying that they were not informed about the changes in the Municipal Engineering Office.
Dela Rosa, on the other hand, said that the only participation his office did was they helped in clearing the trees.
“Ang participation lamang ng opisina namin doon ay nagpatulong sila na mag-clear ng mga naputol na punon doon since kami lang ang opisinang mayroong chainsaw na puwedeng gamitin, in short putol na ‘yung mga puno noong dumating ‘yung mga tao ko doon,” dela Rosa said.
Dela Rosa said that a certain Ben Santo Tomas, a heavy equipment operator of the municipality, went to their office to ask for the assistance regarding the clearing of the cut trees since they do not have a chainsaw to use.
Ben Santo Tomas, according to the Narra Municipal Hiring and Recruitment Office (HRMO) through Jeriel Valenzuela, is a job-order employee of the administration identified as a heavy equipment operators.
The road-clearing operation, a presidential directive by President Rodrigo Duterte himself, was mandated with a mission to clear any obstruction from public roads nationwide.
The directive was formally cascaded by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) for implementation and monitoring.
Leny Escaro, representative of DILG, during her speech at the Question Hour of the legislative session, however, strongly denied that their agency endorsed the cutting of trees along Narra Avenue.
Escaro added that upon reviewing the documents passed by the local engineering office, Narra Avenue, particulary the site of Narra Parkway where the trees were located, was not listed.
“Hindi po sa amin nanggaling specifically ang directive to cut down the trees located in Narra Avenue. Nagpasa po ng document sa amin ang municipal engineering office identifying only Malvar Street, Osmeña Street at Panacan Road to be cleared, pero walang Narra Avenue na nakalista,” Escaro said.
Meanwhile, DENR, through Caluya, informed the legislative body that their office did, for a fact, receive and approve a letter coming from the Narra Mayor’s Office stating that as a part of the road-clearing operation, the local government unit (LGU) will “prune,” not “cut” the trees alongside Narra Avenue.
“Mayroong natanggap na letter ang ating MENRO office dito sa Narra pero ang naka-indicate doon ay “pruning of trees” lamang hindi totally pagputol,” Caluya said.
Caluya further added that their local office upon learning, immediately conducted an investigation and sought the assistance of the SB council.
“Nagpadala agad tayo ng mga tao doon sa area to investigate the matter. Napag-alaman natin na pinutol na pala, hindi lang pruning ang ginawa,” Caluya said.
During their initial investigation, DENR numbered a total of 40 trees cut down identified as Narra, Mahogany, and Manggium.
DENR also said that whoever ordered to cut the trees down will be criminally liable for violation of PD 705 otherwise known as the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines and other and other corresponding administrative case.
Before the Question Hour ended, Narra legislators suggested to create a special investigation team coming from DENR and Sangguniang Bayan members. Arnold Verano, chairman of the Committee on Environment and BM Prince Demaala, chairman on the Committee of Legal Mattere, will determine who must be liable and be charged.
The DENR and the Sangguniang Bayan also invited Palawan Daily News on October 29 as media representative for a briefing and information dialogue concerning the matter.