BRT project must save city’s trees, says DENR

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014


THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) 7 plans to consult all stakeholders on the possible removal of trees affected by the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project in Cebu City.

Eddie Llamedo, DENR 7 spokesperson, said that to avoid cutting trees, proponents of the BRT system, particularly the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), must come up with a road design that will integrate the trees.

In a press conference yesterday, Llamedo said that with more than 2,000 trees that may possibly be affected by the BRT project, they will have to conduct consultations with stakeholders, including conservation groups who oppose tree-cutting.

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But Llamedo said the DENR’s stand is to ensure that no tree cutting is done unless the trees are decayed or dying.

The Movement for a Livable Cebu (MLC) expressed the same stand, saying the BRT should serve the people and save the trees.

MLC convenor Marc Canton said that when the BRT was proposed over a year ago, they raised their concern on why it would pass Osmeña Blvd., Escario St. and Gorordo Ave. where there are many trees and not on P. Del Rosario St., Imus St. and M.J. Cuenco Ave. where there are many people.

Canton said that after the BRT was approved by the National Government, they wrote a letter to Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama two months ago and raised the same concern.

2,000 trees

The MLC believed that if the BRT will pass P. Del Rosario St., Imus St. and M.J. Cuenco Ave., there is no need to earth-ball 2,000 trees because these areas have less trees than Osmena Blvd. Escario St. and Gorordo Ave.

“That is the reason why we at MLC want to dialog with Mayor Rama, officials of Citom (City Traffic Operations and Management), DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways), DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) to decide where the BRT should pass,” Canton said.

Populated

He said the MLC members believe that if the BRT will pass through densely populated areas, it will serve the community better.

“If the choice is between development and the trees, we choose development because we want to uplift the living condition of the people. But our stand is we have to save the trees as much as possible,” Canton said.

Llamedo urged proponents of the BRT project to integrate the trees, mostly narra, in their design.

“Narra trees are considered premium hardwood species and cutting them is considered illegal,” Llamedo said.

Llamedo said that before applying for a tree-cutting or earth-balling permit, the DPWH must secure a clearance and endorsement from Secretary Rogelio Singson.

Proponents of the project must also secure clearances from affected barangays and from the LGU concerned.

Costly

While earth-balling is one option to save the trees, Llamedo admitted it cannot guarantee its survival and could be costly.

Earth-balling a tree with an average diameter of 72 centimeters and 12 to 14 meters in height could cost millions of pesos, Llamedo said.

He said the DENR is prepared to conduct an assessment on all trees affected by the project.

He said appreciates the concern of conservation groups for a third party assessment on the trees. But he said the DENR has been given the mandate to inspect the health of trees.

He urged conservation groups to be present during the consultative meetings so that the proponents can come up with a stand based on outputs from all everyone.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 27, 2014.

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