‘Check those century trees’

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Friday, July 11, 2014


MAYORS and Rep. Gerald Anthony Gullas of Cebu’s first district are calling the attention of two national agencies to look into the state of the century trees lining the national highway in southern Cebu.

This, after an acacia, planted in Balud, San Fernando more than 100 years ago, toppled at 3:40 p.m. Wednesday and crumpled a passing dump truck. The felled tree blocked the road and stalled traffic for hours.

The local officials directed their call to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

A DPWH 7 official said the accident justified what they have been telling DENR all along: that the century trees pose danger to motorists and residents and need to be removed.

In response to that, the DENR 7 ordered its environment officers to thoroughly assess and account for the health of the acacia trees along the major roads in Cebu for public safety.

Environment officials said the tree that fell in San Fernando was in severe decay.

Volunteers and barangay workers helped clear the road of the debris that blocked traffic for almost nine hours on the national highway.

The queue of vehicles reached as far as the Rotunda of Barangay Poblacion 1 in neighboring Carcar City, which is about 11 kilometers from the site in San Fernando town on the southern side.

The gridlock also reached as far as Barangay Tuyan in the City of Naga, going north.

Commuters, mostly students and workers, had to disembark buses, walk for more than three kilometers to transfer to vehicles on the opposite side to reach their destinations.

Cebu Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (PDRRM) Officer Baltazar Tribunalo Jr. and his team had gone to Balud, San Fernando to help clearing the road.

He said the lanes are passable now but the huge chopped trunks are still on the roadside.

The road was finally cleared for traffic at almost midnight.

The entire barangay also had no power for more than 12 hours because the tree dragged down with it the power lines and an electrical pole of the Visayan Electric Company (Veco).

CHECK

DENR 7 Director Isabelo Montejo yesterday said that he ordered the Provincial and Community Environment and Natural Resources officers (Penro and Cenro) to check which trees are aged, diseased or defective.

Montejo said defective trees can pose hazards to lives and properties, that is why sanitary cutting and tree surgery must be done at once.

Tribunalo said he noticed the roots of the felled acacia were rotten and could no longer hold the ground.

He said that in assessing the trees, the strong winds or ground movements, the weight of the tree and to which direction it might fall should be considered.

He said the assessment should be made this month in keeping with the observance of July as Disaster Consciousness Month.

Tribunalo also suggested pruning the trees if needed.

The assessment will begin this week in Naga, Carcar, San Fernando and Sibonga.

DECAYING ROOTS

Cenro Cebu City forester Filemon Embalzado Jr. inspected the felled tree in San Fernando yesterday morning.

Embalzado found that the tree was on its advanced stage of decay, particularly near the roots.

Embalzado blamed the decay on the practice of hanging streamers, tarpaulins and other advertising materials on trees.

Montejo said that even burning materials within the base of the tree can severely damage the health of the tree.

DPWH wanted the defective century-old acacia trees growing along the southern highway removed.

Last year, DENR issued a special permit to DPWH to cut down 42 trees, including eight old acacia trees.

It was issued to facilitate road-widening works on the national highway of the cities of Naga and Carcar.

Gullas said Wednesday’s incident was not the first time that a felled acacia caused problems.

PREVIOUS INCIDENTS

In July 2013, a tree in Barangay Tinaan, City of Naga fell and jammed traffic in the area. No one was injured when that happened unlike that of last Wednesday.

In August 2011 in Sikatuna Street, Cebu City, an old acacia tree fell on a jeepney that had stopped for traffic, killing the drive.

“Do we have to wait until another tree falls and would not just injure, but take a life as well?” Gullas said.

Gullas asked DENR 7 to facilitate right away the release of the special cutting permit.

Gullas’s grandfather, former congressman Eduardo Gullas, initiated the road-widening project on the south road through his Priority Development Assistance Fund.

MAYORS

The mayors of Naga and Carcar agreed with Gullas that DPWH and DENR should give them feedback on the permit.

Naga Mayor Valdemar Chiong said the residents and barangays officials already approved the call to cut defective trees along the highway.

Chiong said he will write the two agencies.

Carcar Mayor Nicepuro Apura said the century-old acacia trees in the city are protected by an ordinance.

But he agreed that defective trees must be removed as these pose danger to motorists.

Apura said he was one of those mired in the traffic the gridlock last Wednesday.

He said he wants the century trees in his city preserved for their heritage value but the defective ones should go.

Meanwhile, DPWH 7 Director Ador Canlas clarified that road widening works in the south have yet to reach San Fernando.

Canlas said that the first phase of the road-widening project in Naga is “near completion,” despite DENR’s conditions set in the permit.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 11, 2014.

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