136 ‘dead’ trees in John Hay to be cut-A A +A
By JM Agreda
Friday, August 16, 2013
JOHN Hay Management Corporation commenced sanitation cutting of some 136 dead pine trees inside the former American military base after being issued a tree cutting permit by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
JHMC president and chief executive officer Jamie Agbayani announced their planned felling of the trees infested by ips calligraphus or bark beetles after they worked on its tree cutting permit for more than a year stressing public safety of Camp John Hay stakeholders and the protection of the pine forest as their utmost goal.
The former American military base holds some 46,000 trees in nine barangays of the reservation alone or some 30 percent of the remaining pine forest cover of Baguio city.
Agbayani said they were required by the DENR to conduct a public consultation on their sanitation cutting plan for the 136 trees and pruning of 14 other affected trees attended by DENR representatives, City Government, Indigenous Peoples groups, environmentalist organizations and the media held in the camp Thursday.
The permit, issued by DENR Regional Executive Director Clarence Baguilat, July 17, after clearance done by the agency's field operations Undersecretary Demetrio Ignacio Jr., set 14 conditions to be strictly followed by the estate manager of Camp John Hay. The permit, however, did not include the proposed earth balling of 14 trees inside John Hay to make way for a car park.
Conditions include planting 100 saplings for every tree cut or some 13,600 trees; signboards informing the public of the tree cutting operation; a sanitation cutting plan; and supervision of city and DENR representatives during cutting.
JHMC vice president and chief operating officer Michelle Regala-Niebres said they were only given 120 days by DENR to undertake the sanitation cutting. She added the Multipartite Monitoring Team of Camp John Hay will observe the cutting activities.
Engr. Editha Malong, environment officer of JHMC, said ips infestations has long been existing but stressed the bark beetles are not endemic to the Philippines but were just introduced here.
She was backed by DENR-ERDS officer Imelda Ngaloy who said the ips infestation in Baguio dates back to the 1950s when Americans brought infested trees for planting here.
Malong said the latest tree inventory shows many areas in Camp John Hay already infested by bark beetles and there is a need to cut them to prevent the beetles from spreading to other trees.
Alberto Banatao said there is a need to come up with a stop-gap measure to immediately contain infestation and also protect the safety of people and structures inside Camp John Hay.
Among the common symptoms of the pine tree infested by the beetle include the crown fading, pitch tubes and boring dusts called frass, which signifies that the beetles have already entered the trees. Trees infested have foliage that is yellow to brown which means the tree is already dead.
The recent onslaught of Typhoon "Labuyo" has already resulted in trees falling in the vicinity of the IHG building, JHMC authorities said.
CENRO officer Edgardo Flor said the debark and burn method and immediate removal of infested trees is the only known and well-researched method preventing the further spread and infestation of bark beetles.
Agbayani said aside from curbing the ips infestation, there is a need to manage the forest reserve which is why the JHMC is hastening the hiring of a forest pathologist to diagnose and nurture trees inside Camp John Hay.
She said the forest pathologist to be hired will conduct research as well as come up with measures to protect trees from being infested.
JHMC also placed several kilometers of fire lines in the reserve to protect trees and barangays from forest fires. Malong said forest fires weaken trees and result in the entry of ips calligraphus.
Agbayani revealed JHMC personnel and its forest rangers are deputized as DENR Officers (DENROs) and authorized to stop illegal tree cutting activities in the Camp John Hay Reservation.
She stressed JHMC will engage in planting an additional 13,600 pine tree seedlings and expressed willingness to partner with environmentalists and other agencies to help protect the pine forest reminiscent of the Old Baguio which draws tourists to the city.
Environmentalists, on the other hand, noticed trees infested by bark beetles are within built-up area.
Trees identified by JHMC to be ips calligraphus-infested are those near the Ayala Technohub, Intercontinental Hotels Group, Camp John Hay Manor and Forest Lodge, picnic grove, Panagbenga Park and Country Estates, all development zones with human activities.
Sheree Nolasco of environmental group Cosa Nostra cited a recent study made by University of the Philippines Los Baños professor and DENR-ERDS officer Horacio San Valentin who stressed there is no ips calligraphus outbreak or major infestation in Baguio.
San Valentin in his lecture last April said there is only local and low-level infestation in Baguio and other parts of Benguet and major factors of the deterioration of the Benguet pine trees are forest fires, overtapping, erosion, over mature and weakened trees which paves way for beetle infestation.
Also, ips calligraphus beetles do not attack healthy trees but only those with weak immune systems and aged. Nolasco said the sap of the tree prevents beetles from entering.
However, the Pine Cone Movement is eyeing a more drastic way to eliminate the beetles with the use of pheromones to attract the female beetles and trap them in specialized contraptions. Nolasco said another way to remove the beetles is through suffocation and starving them inside trap trees.
Conchitina Bernardo of the Pine Cone Movement questioned why the DENR Cordillera director issued the tree cutting permit and not Secretary Ramon Paje.
But Flor said it is already deemed approved by their Central Office with the evaluation and order coming from their undersecretary for Field Operations.
Bernardo also questioned why development at Camp John Hay, the last bastion of pine forests in Baguio, need to be conducted at the expense of trees when its administrators must consider building structures around trees.
But Agbayani said this is what they have been practicing with Ayala Technohub as an example.
UP Baguio professor Vangie Ram also stressed that apart from cutting infested trees and guarding the forest reserve, JHMC must refrain from debarking trees during tree inventories.
Baguio Regreening Movement stalwart Dr. Julie Cabatu also pointed out other problems such as delays in the issuance of tree cutting permit despite infested trees already affecting other healthy trees.
But she said they are satisfied as a growing concern for pine trees have been nurtured among city residents which was reflected well during the public consultation.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on August 17, 2013.