Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Friday, January 09, 2009

DENR: No tree cutting in Subic

MANILA, Philippines – No trees will be cut for any project inside the Subic Freeport, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said Thursday.

In a press conference, Environment Secretary Joselito Atienza also said his agency is taking control of environment concerns in Subic.

“There will be no tree cutting in Subic. We need environmental accountability there and we are committed to protecting the trees,” Atienza said.

Atienza said the controversies “have put into question the ability of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) to enforce environmental laws” inside the former US naval facility.

In a statement, SBMA chief Armand Arreza said he respects the DENR decision to take over environmental concerns at the freeport.

“We also wish to reiterate that the SBMA remains committed to the protection of the environment and will seek the DENR’s reconsideration,” said Arreza.

He said he welcomed the DENR’s intervention in the wake of reports about plans to cut trees for a hotel-casino project in Subic.

“This will also be an opportunity for us to clear ourselves of the negative insinuations leveled against us,” said Arreza.

“At the same time, we wish to assure the public that all 366 trees at the project site remain intact to this day.”

Atienza said he was not opposed to the entry of foreign investors in Subic “but they have to follow our rules when it comes to the environment.”

He said the project should either be transferred to another site or should incorporate the trees.

On existing environmental compliance certificates, Atienza said the DENR would review all ECCs already issued by the SBMA.

A memorandum of agreement was signed in 2006 between the DENR and the SBMA granting powers to the SBMA to issue their own ECCs.

Last year, the Korean-owned Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Corp., a shipbuilder, was assailed after it cut down trees in an islet it had leased to build one of its facilities.

In November, the Korean-owned firm that planned to build a $120-million casino hotel came under fire after its plan to cut down more than 300 trees was exposed.

The trees in both cases were part of areas in the former US naval facility considered as old-growth forests.

By Alcuin Papa - Philippine Daily Inquirer

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