DENR recalls DPWH’s permit to cut trees

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Saturday, August 9, 2014


CEBU CITY -- The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) revoked the tree cutting permit covering the remaining three diseased acacia trees along the national highway in the City of Naga.

DENR-Central Visayas Executive Director Isabelo Montejo revealed Friday that future applications for cutting permit for trees along the national highway from the City of Naga to Carcar City will not be granted.

Conservationists lauded the decision.

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But local government officials in Naga and San Fernando were not happy with the development. They raised concerns about the safety of motorists and commuters.

Jojo Bersales, an archeology professor of the University of San Carlos and former heritage consultant of the Capitol, said the century-old acacia trees in southern Cebu are valuable in terms of heritage but the safety of the public must also be considered.

Montejo said Friday that Environment Secretary Ramon Paje ordered him to recall the special tree cutting permit issued to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH)-Central Visayas for the removal of seven diseased trees in Naga.

Montejo made the announcement during a meeting with Cebu Governor Hilario Davide III, officials of DPWH and concerned local government units and conservationists.

But DENR will continue to assess the health of century-old trees along the south national highway, said Montejo. He welcomed the proposal of local conservation groups to allow a third-party tree examiner to check on the trees.

DPWH-Central Visayas Director Ador Canlas told Sun.Star Cebu in a text message that they will heed the DENR’s order and withdraw personnel and equipment they deployed for the tree-cutting.

“It's nice that government listened,” said Louella Alix, co-convenor of the Movement for a Livable Cebu (MLC). She said MLC came to protect the trees only last Thursday because they were not invited by the DENR in previous meetings.

Lawyer Rose Liza Osorio of the Philippine Earth Justice Center said they plan to invite Dr. Roger de Guzman, a tree pathologist from the University of the Philippines Los Baños to conduct the third-party assessment of the trees.

City of Naga Mayor Valdemar Chiong criticized the DENR decision. He said he will put up signs on the three remaining trees in Barangays Inoburan and Langtad to warn the public that although the trees have been found diseased, the DENR did not allow their removal.

“I'm hoping that nothing will happen with those trees still standing along the highway,” he said.

San Fernando Mayor Antonio Canoy, in a separate interview, accused the DENR-Central Visayas of having “double standards.”

He said DENR will not allow the cutting of diseased trees along the highway in San Fernando but it granted mining permits to cement companies in his town.

In a July 16 report, Community Environment and Natural Resources Office Cebu City Chief Anastacio Cabalejo said 77 trees in San Fernando are “defective” and should be cut. Of the 77, 10 are century-old acacia trees.

Montejo denied allegations that DENR gave in to pressure from conservationists. “We are looking at the interest of the general public. They (conservationists) also have valid concerns,” he said.

He said that although the cutting permit of DPWH was revoked, the public works department still has to replace the four trees it cut earlier.

He said the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office will provide 400 saplings that DPWH can plant.

Davide, on the other hand, urged the public to be careful. “Kung naa'y matumba nga kahoy, ampo nalang ta nga walay matumbahan (If a tree falls, let’s pray no one will get hurt),” he said.

Bersales, who was invited by conservation groups to the meeting at the Capitol, said the safety of the public, especially those who often go to southern Cebu, should also be considered.

He said the acacia trees were planted in the early 1900s by the then Bureau of Public Works to provide shade to travelers bound for southern Cebu.

He agrees with the proposal to bring in a third-party examiner to assess the condition of the trees. (Sun.Star Cebu)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 09, 2014.

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