Mass felling of trees in Buluan, Maguindanao sparks debate

By Ali G. Macabalang

CUTTING DOWN OF TREES SPARK DEBATE. Maguindanao provincial capitol compound at the background of felled trees.

COTABATO CITY

At least 300 trees along the highway of Buluan, Maguindanao have so far been cut down in a drive the provincial government described as a national government-mandated measure to ease traffic and ensure safety in all streets across the country.

But the local government of Buluan, particularly Mayor Baby Dats Mangudadatu complained that prior to the felling of trees in his turf starting last Feb. 5, his office was “not coordinated properly.”

In a video clip made on the issue, Mayor Mangudadatu also questioned the propriety of workers and equipment from the Public Works and Highways district office in Sultan Kudarat province doing the tree-cutting drive that ceased so far last Feb. 7.

“Had you informed us properly and convincingly, we could have done it (tree-cutting) ourselves and save your energy and resources,” he said in Pilipino for the provincial government.

The mayor was suggesting that proper shaving of risk-posing tree branches should have been done, instead of felling the whole trees, which he said involved “sentimental values” for the people and leaders of Buluan.

Those felled 300 trees, all mahogany with five Gmelina species, were planted in 2001 by elected town officials along with residents and even school children, the mayor said..

In a Facebook post on Feb. 5, Board Member Jazzer “King” Mangudadatu lamented the drive as “massacre” of trees that his parents, now Rep. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu and late Ginalyn, planted painstakingly when his father was Buluan mayor.

A worker walking along felled trees planted more than seven feet away from the gutter of the highway. (Supplied)

The board member coupled his post with photos, one showing the provincial capitol building highway view cleared of trees, and another depicting the felled trees lying more than seven feet away from the gutter of the road.

Board Member Mangudadatu also made a video clip, through which he solicited clarifications from higher authorities such as the Interior and Local Government and the Environment and Natural Resources, both agencies devolved to the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

He sent an e-copy of a January 20 letter of BARMM Environment Minister Abdulraof Macacua replying to a January 12 communication purportedly asking for “permit to cut trees (PCT) along the highway fronting the provincial capitol of Maguindanao I which there allegedly there were times that the riding public/motorists had experienced an accident caused by falling branches (resulting to) injuries as well as damage (on car involved.”

Macacua’s letter approved the request, citing “public safety,” but prescribed conditions for the provincial government to turn over the felled trees to his ministry for use by “schools in Buluan,” to “plant trees in areas to be identified the PLGU,” and submit to his ministry a report on the number of trees actually felled, recipient schools, volume of trees planted and their locations.

Board Member Mangudadatu’s camp told the Philippine Muslim Today (PMT) news that Macacua was allegedly “dissatisfied” with the conduct of the tree-cutting drive because it surpassed are area of “highway fronting the capitol compound” and exceeded the 278 number of trees purportedly estimated in the PLGU request. The PMT tried but failed to get comment from Minister Macacua as his phone kept ringing unattended Wednesday..

Clarification

In a video clip sent to PMT via messenger on Feb. 9, Batu Abdullah Sangki Mayor Datu Ali Pax Mangudadatu said the drive was “properly coordinated with concerned agencies,” meant to save life, coupled with a plan to replant new trees, and in pursuit of the DILG national directive for LGUs to clear their respective roads of all matters affecting the smooth flow of traffic and posing risks to riding public.

Mayor Ali Pax, son of incumbent Maguindanao Governor Marian Sangki-Mangudadatu, also pointed that the drive did not involve political undertone.

Gov. Sangki-Mangudadatu defeated in the 2019 gubernatorial election former Mayor Freddie Mangudadatu, younger brother of former three-term governor and now Congressman Esmael. AGM

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