LGUs need to care for the trees, too

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Friday, August 15, 2014


LOCAL Government Units (LGUs) should help the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in nurturing trees, an environmentalist said.

Dr. Roger Guzman, a retired forestry professor at Isabela State University, said DENR does not have enough funds to constantly monitor environmental concerns.

“It is also undermanned,” he said. “The LGUs can provide support.”

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His appeal came after he inspected diseased trees in Naga City last Wednesday.

In separate interviews yesterday, two mayors said they have no funds to treat diseased trees in their locality.

Naga City Mayor Valdermar Chiong said there is no appropriation for it in their budget for this year.

Although the life of the tree will be extended for another 10 years if it is treated, Chiong said it is just a matter of time that they will have to be taken down.

“Mao na sab ang problema when that time comes, maayo pang putlon na lang na (We will still encounter the same problem when that time comes, so it will be better to cut them now),” he said yesterday.

For Carcar Mayor Nicepuro Apura, the cost of treating the trees should not be shouldered by the LGU.

“It’s their proposal so they must shoulder the cost or share it with those who oppose the cutting because we don’t have the budget for the treatment of trees in Carcar City,” he said.

Leo Remitar, DENR 7 forest protection and law enforcement section chief, reminded local officials that LGUs are mandated under the Local Government Code to help national agencies.

Section 3(i) of the law states: “Local government units shall share with the national government the responsibility in the management and maintenance of ecological balance within their territorial jurisdiction, subject to the provisions of this Code and national policies.”

In 2012, the DENR issued a special permit to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to cut down 42 trees, including eight old acacia trees.

The permit was issued to facilitate road-widening works on the national highway of Naga City, San Fernando and Carcar City.

But the permit was suspended following public outrage over the cutting of century-old trees.

However, when two acacia trees fell last month, causing heavy traffic and damage to properties, local officials called on DENR to allow the cutting of the trees.

The cutting of the trees was stopped when Environment Secretary Ramon Paje ordered DENR regional offices to return all applications for tree cutting permits and environmental compliance certificates related to DPWH’s road-widening projects across the country.

Yesterday, Guzman continued inspecting the century-old acacia trees in San Fernando and Carcar City with DENR foresters and the Movement for a Livable Cebu (MLC) led by its convenor Rudy Alix.

Guzman, also the executive director of the conservation group Philippine Federation for Environmental Concern, only recommended pruning and proper caring of the trees.

He said the pruning of branches of some trees he inspected must be an “immediate action” because they might cause harm to the public.

He further suggested to the DENR to conduct a deeper assessment that includes the state of the soil where the trees stand.

Guzman examined six acacia trees in San Fernando, including the one that fell in Barangay Balud last July 9.

The toppled acacia is already a dead tree because the roots were already rotten, said Guzman.

He said the drainage near the tree contributed to the decay.

Three of the acacias were recommended by DENR for immediate cutting because of their reported “diseased” state, but Guzman said the trees can still recover.

“They just needed treatment and pruning,” he said.

The third acacia tree that the group examined has a hollow portion in the trunk and Guzman said it needs “surgery.”

“It can be cemented but before doing it, it must be cleaned very well,” he told the foresters.

The trunk, he said, will eventually heal on its own.

Guzman later told foresters that the balite tree should be detached from one of the acacias. He said the balite is a parasitic tree that can kill its host.

DENR officer Filemon Embalzado Jr. told Guzman about the possibility of being criticized again if they heavily prune some trees.

“We are not killing the tree, we are improving its health,” said Guzman.

In Carcar City, the group only inspected the acacia that toppled in Barangay Perrelos.

Guzman said he noticed garbage in the tree’s base, which was also burnt.

“It (garbage) accelerated the decay in the root system,” he said.

Last Wednesday afternoon, Guzman was in Naga City to inspect the trees that DENR recommended to be cut.

For his part, Remitar said the public must be educated on the proper way to maintain trees and the LGUs must also do their share in protecting the environment.

He cited the Department of Interior and Local Government and the Department of Budget and Management joint memorandum issued in 2011, ordering the LGUs to allot no less than 20 percent of their Internal Revenue Allotment for development projects, including environmental management.

Environment-related programs include “reforestation and urban greening; construction or rehabilitation of sanitary landfills, material recovery facilities and purchase of garbage trucks and related equipment.”

Other projects are the implementation of flood and erosion control projects such as rehabilitation and construction of drainage systems, de-silting of rivers, de-clogging of canals, and other environmental management projects that promote air and water quality, as well as productivity of the coastal or freshwater habitat, agricultural land and forest land.

The MLC will invite Naga City Mayor Val Chiong, Carcar City Mayor Nicepuro Apura, San Fernando Mayor Antonio Canoy and other government officials to the presentation today of the consolidated report on Guzman’s inspection of the trees.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 16, 2014.

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