Forester: Remaining acacia trees will live for 20-30 years

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014


A RETIRED forestry professor said the remaining century-old acacia trees in the City of Naga, Cebu, which were earlier declared diseased, need not be cut.

“They can still survive for 20 to 30 years,” said Dr. Roger Guzman, executive director of the conservation group Philippine Federation for Environmental Concern.

Guzman inspected yesterday afternoon three acacia trees in Naga, all that remained of the seven trees covered by a special tree cutting permit issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) 7 to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) 7.

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But last Aug. 8, the DENR revoked the cutting permit amid opposition by some groups.

Three days later, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje ordered DENR regional offices to return all applications for tree cutting permits and environmental compliance certificates related to DPWH road widening projects nationwide.

Safety

Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III and San Fernando Mayor Antonio Canoy wrote Paje to raise their concerns for the safety of motorists and commuters who pass by the old trees.

DENR 7 spokesperson Eddie Llamedo said the environment department will work together with nature conservation groups and concerned local government units in coming up with “harmonized findings.” He said recommendations will consider the concerns of all stakeholders.

Davide and Canoy said diseased trees along the highway may fall anytime and endanger human lives.

DENR 7 conducted an assessment of the condition of trees along the south highway from the City of Naga to Carcar City, most of which are affected by the road widening project of the DPWH. It found 77 diseased trees along the highway in San Fernando.

Guzman, however, believed that the four trees in Naga that were cut could have been saved.

“The alleged diseased trees that we saw are caused mainly by physical injuries. The center rot at the trunk of the tree is common in over-mature trees and are not transmittable. They do not affect the vigor and strength of the trees,” he said.

He said physical injuries can be addressed through tree surgery, which involves putting concrete on the exposed woody part to prevent exposing the tree to disease. He said the bark will gradually cover the cemented part.

Funds

He said the hole in the middle of the tree trunk is “common and natural” and does not mean that the tree is dead.

But Llamedo said the DENR does not have funds to conduct tree surgery on the old trees lining the south highway. “Maybe the local government or the DPWH can do that,” he added.

Guzman said the toppling of a century-old acacia tree in Perrelos, Carcar City and in Balud, San Fernando were accidents.

Nangyayari naman minsan yun (It happens sometimes),” he said. “But that does not mean it can happen to all trees.”

He said a tree becomes weak if there is constant burning in its trunk to drive away insects, improper pruning, and if its lateral roots are often hit by vehicles.

Burning can damage the tree’s tissues that carry food and water, said Guzman. Heavy equipment used in road works can also damage lateral roots, he added.

Root

He said a tree’s stability is affected if its tap root is rotten.

Guzman’s team will visit San Fernando today and inspect the old trees in the town.

Llamedo said the old acacia tree that fell in Perrelos, Carcar did not show signs of disease.

The DENR 7 assessment covered nine trees in Carcar City, including the tree in Perrelos that toppled last July 26.

“If it did not fall, we wouldn’t have known its trunk was already in advanced stage of decay,” he said. He added that the fallen tree’s lateral roots—those that grow outward horizontally and found near the top part of the soil—were intact.

Guzman said one of the factors to be considered before cutting trees is if they pose risk on motorists and pedestrians.

To prevent traffic accidents, Guzman suggested pruning branches that lean toward the highway. He also suggested raising power lines so they will not get tangled with the branches.

He said a sign must be placed on the highway to warn drivers of trucks and buses about low-hanging branches.

In his letter to Paje, Canoy said he does not understand the DENR’s objectives in preventing the cutting of old trees but allowing mining operations in Cebu.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 14, 2014.

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