Almost a year after being granted a temporary environmental protection order (TEPO), the environmentalist group Save the Trees Coalition (STC) lost its fight to protect 259 trees along the Fil-Am Friendship Road at the Bacolor-Angeles boundary in Pampanga. The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has been given the go signal by the court to cut down the trees for a road widening project to ease traffic at the Clark Freeport zone.
One of the plaintiffs from STC, Dina Zulueta, told the Inquirer in a phone interview that the group will be appealing the court decision, but will need help on the financial front. In a Facebook post, STC said it has started an initiative to raise funds by selling face masks printed with the image of trees for P250.
By raising much-needed funds, STC is hoping to repeat its 2012 success in saving over 400 trees from the chopping block in Bgy. Sto. Domingo in Angeles City and Bgy. Mabiga in Mabalacat City.
Regional Trial Court Judge Maria Angelica Paras-Quimbao found the DPWH’s environmental clearance certificate and two tree-cutting permits valid. Quiambao also cited the plaintiff’s failure to prove that the DPWH violated the conditions of the permits and denied that there was no public hearing held.
When it first filed for a TEPO last year, STC cited Republic Act 3571, an act prohibiting the cutting, destroying or injuring of planted or growing trees, flowering plants and shrubs, or plants of scenic value along public roads, in plazas, parks, school premises or in any other public pleasure ground.
In most photos of the highway, the trees were shown to be paved over in cement. While a recent trimming helped rejuvenate some of them, the STC said some trees are on the brink of death because of human intervention.
One tree located on the Angeles side of the Fil-Am Friendship road, for example, died last year due to girdling, a process of physically removing bark around the tree. According to experts that the STC had consulted, some trees along the Friendship Circumferential Road were also killed intentionally.
“Protecting the Friendship trees is a community effort, so we call upon the public to help us report any further damage to these trees while the TEPO is still in place,” the organization said in 2020.