TAKEN DOWN. Environment office personnel, backed by police, remove political posters, and campaign materials illegally nailed and tacked on trees in Soccsksargen as part of the “Oplan Baklas” campaign to spare the trees from destruction on Wednesday (April 20, 2022). More than 7,000 campaign materials posted on trees were taken down as a result of the drive. (Photo courtesy of DENR-12)

COTABATO CITY – A total of 7,229 various campaign materials nailed, tacked, and displayed on trees have been removed by personnel of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Soccsksargen (DENR-12) across the region, an official said Thursday.

In an interview, DENR-12 Director Felix S. Alicer said the regionwide removal of campaign posters and paraphernalia nailed on trees, dubbed “Oplan Baklas,” was carried out on Wednesday.

“This was in close coordination with our partners, the Commission on Elections (Comelec), local government units, police and the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) and Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB),” Alicer said.

He noted that the dismantled poll campaign materials were made of tarpaulin, plywood, and cloth streamers.

Quoting reports from provincial DENR offices, Alicer said 717 illegal posters were removed from trees in North Cotabato, 256 in Sarangani Province, 193 in Sultan Kudarat, and 6,063 in South Cotabato.

Before the simultaneous “Oplan Baklas,” the provincial and Community ENR Offices of DENR-12 have already conducted their operations in their respective areas of responsibility.

With barely three weeks before the May 9 polls, Alicer appealed to all candidates and their supporters to strictly follow the law and spare the trees from campaign posters.

“There 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 these trees provide various environmental benefits to us,” he said.

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

Under Republic Act 3571, cutting, destroying, or injuring planted or growing trees, flowering plants, shrubs, or plants of scenic value along public roads, in plazas, parks, school premises, or on any other public pleasure grounds is prohibited.

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

The Soccsksargen comprises the provinces of North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato, and Sarangani; and the cities of Kidapawan, Tacurong, Koronadal and General Santos. (PNA)