‘Running priest’ Fr. Reyes urges Archbishop Palma to ‘march against EJK of trees’

By: Rosalie Abatayo October 17,2019 - 03:29 PM

Fr. Roberto Reyes speaks to the members of the Cebu media in a press conference held at a coffee shop in Cebu City on Thursday morning, October 17, 2019. CDN Digital photo | Rosalie Abatayo

CEBU CITY, Philippines— Environmentalist priest Fr. Robert Reyes has called on Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma to take the lead and march against the “extrajudicial killing (EJK)” of trees in Naga City, in southern Cebu.

Fr. Reyes, who ran along the national highway of Naga City today, October 17, said that the archbishop should be the one to lead the fight “against the EJK of nature.”

Reyes blamed to the silence of the local church to the success in cutting at least 7 out of the 32 trees in Naga City since October 5.

At least seven centuries old acacia trees have been recently cut in Barangay Inuburan in Naga City, Cebu to give way for a road widening project of the Department of Public Roads and Highways in Central Visayas. | CDN Digital file photo /Delta Letigio

“The church is quiet, I request the Archbishop of Cebu, Archbishop Jose Palma, to condemn the killing of trees. Condemn it. It’s immoral, it’s against God, it’s against nature. A real condemnation of anything that violates the law of God to preserve nature has to be done by the church,” Reyes said.

While multiple online petitions have been launched to call for the saving of the trees, Reyes said the online signatures have to be translated into warm bodies.

Read more: Online survey shows support to save century trees

“I think you have to march to your munisipyos. But people will not march to their munisipyos because they are afraid…Petition online are very easy. We have to translate it to warm bodies,” Reyes said.

“That is why this is the time for the moral leaders to take the lead. If Archbishop Palma will march and tell people to march then people will march,” he added.

Read more: Youth activists, residents protest to stop cutting of trees in Naga City

Reyes said he should not have needed to tell Palma of the threat against the trees since the tree cutting had been happening in Metro Cebu.

“Do I have to tell him why it is a moral duty to stop the cutting (of the trees)? I think that is what I must tell him. I must remind him that it is his moral duty as a moral leader to speak on behalf of the voiceless trees,” Reyes said.

Reyes, who is dubbed as “the running priest,” is the parish priest of the the St. Francis of Assisi church in Quezon City.

He also came to Cebu in 2014 when the same trees in Naga City were under threat of cutting for the road widening project of the Department of Public Works and Highways in Central Visayas (DPWH-7).

These trees were saved five years ago due to protests from various groups including a Naga City resident and mountaineer who hoisted himself on one tree to protest against the cutting of the trees.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Central Visayas (DENR-7) issued the permit for the cutting of the 32 century-old trees to complete the road widening project. The cutting began last October 5.

Read more: Gwen to ‘listen’ to mayors, DENR, DPWH first on tree cutting issue; vows to save trees where they can

But last Tuesday afternoon, October 15, the DPWH agreed to suspend the cutting operations pending their review and reassessment with the DENR and the city government of Naga.

The government agencies will assess the health of the trees to see if they pose a danger to motorists if they fall down, and its distance to the road. 

Trees that are beside the road but do not sit on the sidewalk itself may be spared, said Governor Gwendolyn Garcia during a recent press briefing./dbs

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TAGS: Archbishop Palma, centuries old trees, century trees, EJK, EJK of nature, EJK of trees, Fr. Reyes, Naga City, running priest

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