By Dominique Gabriel G. Bañaga
The Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) said yesterday they are ready to answer the allegations against them after they were also included in a complaint filed by a citizen anti-graft and corruption group over the controversial cutting of trees at the Old Bacolod Airport along Araneta Street in Bacolod City.
In an interview with RMN DYHB-Bacolod, CENRO head Engineer Joan Nathaniel Gerangaya said the group that filed the complaint against them has every right to file the case, pointing out it would give way for him to answer the allegations against him.
Gerangaya said they were only doing their jobs based on the mandate given to them, adding that this is the first time that a complaint was filed against him over the issue of tree cutting to make way for the projects of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), and the first in the country since 2018.
Gerangaya further explained that in 2018, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu gave CENRO officers the power and authority to sign the tree cutting permits for projects of the DPWH, as long as the documents and requirements are met.
Before 2018, only the regional director of the DENR had such authority, however they were being blamed for several of the DPWH’s delays in implementing their projects.
He added that if they ignored the DPWH’s request for tree cutting, they could have also been charged.
Earlier, Dominador Villaluna Jr., president and founder of the Crusaders for Justice, filed a complaint for grave misconduct, gross ignorance of the law, grave abuse of authority and violation of Republic Act 3571 (An Act to Prohibit 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), and Presidential Decree 705 (Revised Forestry Code) against Gerangaya and Engineer Jaime Javellana, the district engineer of DPWH Bacolod.
The complaint stemmed from the controversial cutting of 35 decades-old trees in the city to give way to a “sidewalk project.”
The move earned criticisms from environmental advocates and residents.
The growing criticism later led to the DENR calling off the planned cutting of trees along the old airport./DGB, WDJ