Time to cut dangerous trees and stupid guidelines
posted 16-Jul-2018  ·  
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Last week’s consultative hearing conducted by the Committee on Peace & Order and Public Safety of the Sangguniang Bayan of Virac turned up some interesting issues.

Spurred by Councilor Nel Asanza’s privilege speech calling for a comprehensive traffic management plan and the removal of obstructions from vital roads during the June 26, 2018 regular session, the committee invited to the hall officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Philippine National Police (PNP), First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative, Inc. (FICELCO) Nand Provincial Engineering Office (PEO). Only the DPWH OIC-district engineer was present while the others sent representatives.

Majority of the discussion focused on the DPWH road widening projects in Bigaa, Sto. Domingo and San Vicente, where the contractors have yet to remove obstructions such as trees and electric posts.

The DPWH, it turns out, is still waiting for the tree-cutting permits for each project to be approved by no less than the DENR Secretary while the DENR people blamed the DPWH for the delay in submitting their permit applications.

On the other hand, FICELCO cannot remove the power poles unless the affected structures are also demolished to make way for the pole reinstallation at the edge of the road right-of-way. It is also demanding that all materials affected by the removal be replaced, raising the cost of reimbursement to be paid by DPWH.

The DPWH, it was stressed, can only send notices to vacate to the affected home owners as it does not have the police power to demolish the obstructions, something that is lodged with the local government unit.

For its part, the DENR says that for approval of a tree-cutting permit, only the Secretary has the authority to approve a permit to cut a naturally-grown tree while that covering a planted tree belongs to the regional director. A permit takes around three months to be approved, sometimes even longer.

It took a strong statement from municipal administrator Roy Laynes on the immediate need for public safety for the agencies to agree on the trees, which would be cut by the Virac LGU for posing danger to motorists, with the cutting supervised by DENR.

There is much that can be done for the people if government agencies, which sometimes act at odds with each other, can calmly discuss ways to speed up the implementation of programs and projects.

No less than President Rodrigo Duterte has expressed frustration at the delays faced by government infrastructure projects particularly in clearing roads of trees and obstructions. The threat of legal action from building owners often time deter infra agencies from proceeding with the demolition of obstructions, although there are already guidelines allowing them to remove the obstruction once the owner has received the final notice.

Duterte’s loyal allies in Congress should be asked to amend existing laws, rules and regulations to make it easier for the government in removing obstructions within the national road right-of-way.

Sometimes the government itself is to blame for the red tape.

For instance, why does it has to be the DENR Secretary himself, a very busy man, who has to personally approve the cutting of a single tree blocking the road in Sto. Domingo, Virac, a place has not even seen in his entire life?

The evident stupidity and uselessness of some rules and regulations in the Philippine bureaucracy certainly can drive a citizen nuts, including the President himself.


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