Leyte mayor slammed for mowing trees, plants in road clearing operations
MANILA, Philippines – A town mayor in Leyte has been slammed by his residents after overseeing road clearing operations that led to the razing of trees and shrubberies along the side of their roads allegedly without any consultation.
In an open letter sent to Rappler on October 19, a certain Nonna Ponferrada from Barangay San Antonio, Tunga town in Leyte said that their town mayor Catalina Agda had been “blind and hasty” in following the directive of President Rodrigo Duterte to clear all roads of obstruction.
“Blind and hasty following of a directive from government agencies without a thorough understanding of the substance of its contents and thought on the resultant impact of the actions on the town, and devoid of proper dialogue with the townsfolks, runs counter to all sound practices of a town leader,” Ponferrada said in a statement.
Ponferrada recounted that on October 16, government employees mowed down thriving plants in their barangay’s sidewalks in the name of the road-clearing directive. She said they were not given prior notice, save for when the workers were about to take their plants and trees down.
The local attached photos showing rows of colorful plants in their sidewalks, and vines crawling up the walls of houses. In photos that showed the streets after the operation, the plants were no longer there—only flattened earth and walls stripped of vines.
“Just as you and your team took pains to see and talk to people during the election campaigns, we would have wanted to see the same effort from you and the LGU officials and municipal staff talk to everyone and explain,” Ponferrada added.
This comes after the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) finished its nationwide evaluation of local government units (LGUs) in their compliance with Duterte’s order. The DILG set the deadline on September 29, or 60 days after Duterte’s order was announced in his 2019 State of the Nation Address.
Tunga town failed, according to records posted by the DILG on its website, which meant that the LGU did not get at least 71% of its main roads cleared within the prescribed time period. This also means that Mayor Agda would be ordered by the DILG to explain why she failed their directive. If she does not reply, she will face administrative complaints before the Office of the Ombudsman.
The Tunga LGU’s operations came despite the DILG clarifying earlier on that the road clearing directive was for the removal of obstructions on the road, and not the destruction of structures and plants along sidewalks for road widening projects.
“We wish to emphasize that the purpose of MC 121-2019, in compliance with the directive of the President, is to ‘return to public use, all public roads and sidewalks that have been appropriated for private use.’ In other words, it is for purposes of returning to the public the use of all public roads and it should never be used for road-widening purposes,” Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said in a statement on Thursday, September 19. – Rappler.com