KORONADAL CITY, South Cotabato – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Region 12 and its partners have removed 7,229 campaign posters and other paraphernalia on trees during a simultaneous regionwide β€œOplan Baklas” operation on Wednesday, April 20.

The activity was in coordination with the Commission on Elections (Comelec), local government units (LGUs), Philippine National Police (PNP), Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) and Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB).

Based on the reports from the DENR-12 field offices, 717 illegal posters were removed from the trees in Cotabato Province, 256 in Sarangani Province, 193 in Sultan Kudarat Province and 6,063 in South Cotabato.

Prior to the said simultaneous β€œOplan Baklas”, the Provincial and Community ENR Office of DENR-12 have already conducted their own operations in their respective areas of responsibility.

DENR-12 Regional Executive Director (RED) Atty. Felix S. Alicer appealed to the candidates and their supporters to strictly follow the law and spare the trees from campaign posters.

β€œThere are designated common poster areas for the candidates, and the trees are not one of those. We have to spare the trees from these election materials since they provide various environmental benefits to us,” he said.

RED Alicer added that violators could face legal sanctions if they continue to ignore the provisions of various election and environmental laws.

Under the Republic Act 3571, 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 grounds are prohibited.

It is also provided under the Section 3 of Presidential Decree No. 953 that violators could be punished with imprisonment from six months to two years, or fine of not less than PHP500 and not more than PHP5,000, or both.

RED Alicer also lauded the actions of DENR-12 field offices and emphasized the need to intensify the promotion of environmentally conscious national election campaign.

The DENR, Comelec, and Department of Interior and Local Government signed the Joint Memorandum Circular No. 2010-01 on March 30, 2010 which enjoins political parties, party-list groups, and individual candidates to enforce relevant provisions of RA 9006 and RA 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 on the reduction of volume of wastes during the election and post-election periods, encourage on the use of recyclable, reusable, and eco-friendly materials, and reiterates that the cutting and damaging of trees are prohibited.