TURNING POINT: DENR 10 has not issued tree- cutting permit to MSU Naawan

NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews/09 March) — The moment of truth has come.

DENR 10 (Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Region 10) belied that MSU Naawan was granted permit to cut the 30-year old Narra, Mahogany and other trees on campus as claimed by Chancellor Proserpina Roxas during an interview with ABS CBN TV Patrol on 13 February 2014.

In response to my report and query, DENR 10 Regional Executive Director (RED) Ruth M. Tawantawan called me at 10:57 a.m. on  06 March 2014 to inform me, among others, that her office has not issued a tree-cutting permit to Mindanao State University (MSU) Naawan, particularly in connection with the construction of a gymnasium or a Training and Student Activity Center (TSAC), within its premises.

The phone call of RED Tawantawan confirmed what her Executive Assistant, Mr. F.  Escuadra disclosed to me on Thursday, 27 February 2014, that the application of MSU Naawan for tree-cutting permits was not acted upon by the Office of the RED because of deficiencies in requirements. The application papers were returned to the forwarding Community Environment and Resources Office (CENRO) of Initao, which has responsibility on environmental concerns in west Misamis Oriental.

A total of 68 mostly 30-year old trees were felled last January to give way to the construction of a gym inside the campus. Twenty-eight  of these were Narra (the biggest of which had a diameter of 1.25 meters), 19 were Mahogany and three were Ilang-ilang.

Nineteen more trees, mostly Mahogany, were also felled in other sites within the MSU Naawan premises.

The logs from felled trees were haphazardly kept in a dumpsite on top of one another covered with tree stumps, branches and mud.  The logs are currently cut into lumbers and are being sawn into various sizes in a mini-sawmill that uses a circular saw, also operating without DENR and LGU (local government unit) permit inside the campus.

This is not the first time that the management of MSU Naawan has gone into tree-cutting rampage on campus without permit and without consultation with the academic community.

Sometime in October 2009, the faculty, students and staff petitioned the Chancellor of the campus to stop the cutting of trees to no avail. The intervention of DENR, in response to my report, halted the felling of trees.  Subsequently,  the illegal bandsaw was dismantled and had ceased to operate since then. But no one was hailed to court for the offense.

RED Tawantawan declared that this time around the offender or offenders shall be held liable under existing laws and policies of DENR.

Two investigating teams were recently created to conduct an in-depth investigation on the circumstances surrounding the reported tree-cutting incident. The first team composed of CENRO Initao personnel failed to deliver. It was unable to submit its report on 27 February 2014 as mandated.

Tawantawan constituted another team composed of personnel from her office and from the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO). The Team immediately went to Naawan early morning on Wednesday, 05 March 2014, to conduct a new in-situ investigation on the matter. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan, Ph.D., was a research and extension worker, professor and the first chancellor of the Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental.  He was a British Council fellow and trained in 1994 at Sheffield University, United Kingdom, on Participatory Planning and Environmentally Responsible Development. Upon retirement, he served as national consultant to the ADB-DENR project on integrated coastal resource management. He is the immediate past president of the MSU Alumni Association)