Lito Atienza's Blog

ATIENZA TO CALL FOR A WORKSHOP TO SET NATIONAL TREE CUTTING POLICY | August 12, 2009

nvironment and Natural Resources Secretary Lito Atienza (right) urges representatives of different environmental advocacy groups that participated in the consultation meeting on urban greening held at the DENR in Quezon City to work closely with local government units in finding a “common ground” for environmental protection activities, such as tree planting. Among others, Atienza suggested the designation of permanent greenbelt areas, in accordance with the land use plans of concerned LGUs, where trees can be planted for protection purposes, and without fear of being cut to give way to development projects. The meeting, attended by some 15 environmental advocacy groups, was called by Atienza to thresh out measures on how to best address environmental concerns like tree cutting and tree balling in major development projects like road widening and other infrastructure projects.

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Lito Atienza (right) urges representatives of different environmental advocacy groups that participated in the consultation meeting on urban greening held at the DENR in Quezon City to work closely with local government units in finding a “common ground” for environmental protection activities, such as tree planting. Among others, Atienza suggested the designation of permanent greenbelt areas, in accordance with the land use plans of concerned LGUs, where trees can be planted for protection purposes, and without fear of being cut to give way to development projects. The meeting, attended by some 15 environmental advocacy groups, was called by Atienza to thresh out measures on how to best address environmental concerns like tree cutting and tree balling in major development projects like road widening and other infrastructure projects.


The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will call for a workshop to set the national policy on tree cutting vis-à-vis development projects which are of national interest.

The conduct of the workshop was agreed upon during a stakeholders’ forum held at the Department’s social hall in Quezon City, where several options and situations where tree cutting and earth balling of trees will be allowed were presented to the participants.

We have to work together. And this is exactly what the forum is all about. Let us work together to save the trees, wherever they are, and at the same time set a policy that is practical enough, realistically enough.

Around 15 organizations were invited to the forum following our recent move temporarily requiring project developers to earth-ball, instead of cutting, trees that will be affected by their development activities while the mechanics of when and where tree cutting activities should be allowed are being threshed out among concerned stakeholders.

The tree-balling policy he had earlier taken should be seen within the context of the importance of trees have in mitigating the effects of global warming, particularly on archipelagic countries while having to “squarely address” the overriding need to balance national progress and environmental protection.

We cannot stop development, but on the other hand, we have to save trees. This calls for finding a common ground where science and passion for our common advocacy can complement each other for national interest.

Forestry experts have advised me that earth-balling trees do not always result in sound environmental practice as it may sometimes give a negative net loss in terms of carbon sequestration in that more carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, is released from earth-balling, making planting of tree saplings (1 to 3 year-old “juvenile” trees) as a more viable alternative.

So automatically then, my reaction is kung gagalawin niyo ang mga puno (if you must remove trees), don’t cut them. Ball them and transfer them to some other place, while admitting that a national policy on tree cutting vis-à-vis project developments has to be laid down especially in cases where national interests are involved such as the construction of major road arteries, dams and power plants, to name a few.

I specifically asked our Forestry Director Marlo Mendoza to develop a keen observation and study precisely how the black forest in Germany and other forested areas and how they handle situations where tree planting becomes a key component of a development project.

Mendoza presented to the body the agency’s recommendation on the parameters on how to best determine when earth-balling and tree cutting are the most viable option to take in project developments in ways that address both the imperatives of climate change and the development.

Among the participants were representatives from various non-government organizations such as the Save Our Trees, Mother Earth Philippines. Concerned Citizens Against Pollution, Haribon, Foundation for Philippine Environment, Bantay Kalikasan., Energy Development Corp., Transco, Josep Server, Manila North Tollways, National Power Corp., Department of Public Works and Highways, MetroManila Development Authority, and University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City and in Los Banos in Laguna.

Policy reforms on tree cutting, earth-balling underway

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources is currently working on new guidelines on cutting and earth-balling of trees amid public clamor to ban tree cutting in light of the global problem on earth warming and climate change.

Our technical men in the forestry sector are now studying technical, social, economic as well as environment-related issues involving tree-cutting and we hope to present whatever policy reforms they would come up with in a multi-sectoral consultation soon.

In a stakeholders’ meeting regarding new policy directions on the processing and issuance of environmental permits, that the DENR is banning on an interim basis the issuance of tree cutting permits. In lieu of this, the department will be issuing earth-balling permits to allow for the transplantation of trees affected by development projects elsewhere.

It was agreed upon during the meeting that developers must reorient their project designs in such a way that existing trees are preserved.

Forester Marlo Mendoza, director of DENR’s Forest Management Bureau, said his agency will be proposing several technical considerations as to when tree cutting will be allowed and not allowed, and when earth-balling shall be required.

Among these proposals, Mendoza indicated that trees with historical significance like the Tandang Sora tree in Quezon City “must be avoided during any development projects” and that trees under threat of extinction from Philippine forest be given extra care when transferring them to their new site.

Mendoza will also be recommending that trees for earth-balling should have a maximum size of 25 centimeters in diameter planted within public roads, plazas, school premises, and open grounds in private lands.

For trees that are classified as “threatened” but are cleared for earth-balling, Mendoza said the FMB will be issuing guidelines on earth-balling procedure, that must be undertaken “regardless of size.”

Some of the more recognized Philippine trees being protected by the DENR from extinction include apitong, kamagong, kalantas, malabayabas, molave, narra, and red lauan.

Trees classified as “threatened” by the DENR are listed Department Administrative Order 2007-01, pursuant to Republic Act 9147 or the “Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act,” including 41 others that are considered to be “critically endangered” or those that are in “extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future.”

Mendoza added that the bureau will also be including in the new guidelines the strict observance on the display or installation of placards and signboards notifying the public about the earth balling and transplanting activities in both places and that the trees should be planted immediately in an area identified by the DENR and a maintenance period of six months, during which constant watering and regular pruning are needed to ensure the survival and health of the trees.

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