Tree issue still unresolved

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Saturday, August 16, 2014


OFFICIALS of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) 7 and a private tree expert contacted by local conservation groups failed yesterday to come up with “harmonized” findings on the old acacia trees found along the south highway from Naga to Carcar.

During a multi-sectoral meeting held at Cebu Provincial Capitol, DENR 7 officials defended their findings that some of the trees are decayed and ought to be cut. They said their assessment of the trees took several months while Dr. Roger Guzman only inspected the trees in the last three days.

Guzman, retired forester and current executive director of the Philippine Federation for Environmental Concern, admitted that his findings are not conclusive.

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Local conservation groups agreed that more studies should be conducted on the trees.

Four of 80

But a local government official expressed disappointment at the meeting, adding that they expected an immediate resolution to the issue as the public’s safety is at stake.

During the meeting yesterday, Guzman said that out of the 80 trees he assessed from the City of Naga to San Fernando, only four century-old acacia trees ought to be cut.

Surgery and pruning should be done on the rest of the trees to maintain their health, he said.

Dr. Eddie Llamedo, DENR 7 spokesperson, said tree surgery cost about P9,000 per tree.

The cost covers pruning, trimming, surgery preparations and chemicals used to cover the tree gap.

Surgery

Llamedo said DENR didn't apply tree surgery on the old acacia trees in Naga because they were not sure the trees would be able to recover from their disease.

Eduardo Inting, DENR 7 technical director for forestry, said he welcomes Guzman's assessment but he pointed out that a DENR team spent six months assessing the trees before recommending them to be cut.

Inting said DENR 7 foresters inspected 154 trees along the south highway, which were covered by an application for cutting permit by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) 7 in 2012, in relation to a road widening project.

Inting said that DENR 7 Executive Director Isabelo Montejo directed the Ecosystem Research and Development Service (ERDS) unit of the department to conduct a separate study on the trees.

Factors

As the foresters and the ERDS team came up with similar findings, Montejo issued a cutting permit to DPWH 7.

Inting said the DENR assessment considered the trees’ aesthetic value, risk to public safety, low healing factor and low carbon sequestration.

Guzman proposed that a team, which should include a tree pathologist, conduct a comprehensive analysis on the health of the old acacia trees. The analysis can be completed in a week, he said.

Inting agreed with the need for a tree pathologist to study the trees. But he raised the safety concerns of motorists and commuters.

“Who will take responsibility if someone is hurt or killed when the trees fall?” he asked.

Members of local conservation groups agreed to hold more consultations on the old trees. They will have another meeting with DENR, DPWH and Capitol officials next week.

San Fernando Municipal Administrator Neil Enriquez, however, said he was disappointed with the meeting because he thought the issue would be resolved then.

“We were expecting a final solution to the removal of diseased acacia trees in our town. What happened was those who never lived or even took the road to the south were the ones calling the shots,” Enriquez told reporters.

He said many San Fernando residents support the cutting of diseased trees because they are afraid a tree would fall on them.

In a statement, former Cebu congressman Eduardo Gullas urged the DPWH and DENR to consider consulting a third party expert to look at diseased trees in Naga, San Fernando and Carcar. JKV

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

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