SOME 151 trees will have to go because of the ongoing Metro Cebu Expressway project, a 73-kilometer highway that will connect the City of Naga in the south to Danao City in the north.
“Segment 3 of the project, a continuation of the segments constructed since 2108, will affect 151 trees in Barangay Cantao-an, City of Naga. Just last week, we conducted a joint survey with the Community Environment and Natural Resource Office (Cenro) since they were the ones who undertook the inventory of the trees,” said Ali Mauna, in charge of securing tree cutting permits for the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) 7.
Mauna said they are already processing the necessary documentary requirements.
“We have no timeline or schedule yet as to when will these be trimmed and cut since we are still in the process of securing permits. But we already marked those trees that will be affected,” he said.
To secure the permits from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Mauna said they needed to conduct public consultation with stakeholders, secure a certification and affidavit of no complain from the barangay concerned and secure an endorsement from the mayor of the municipality where the trees belong.
Last Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019, Benjamin Cabrido Jr. filed a petition for a Writ of Kalikasan with urgent prayer for the issuance of a temporary protection order before the Court of Appeals in Cebu City.
The DENR 7, through the Cenro Cebu City, issued a Special Tree Cutting Permit on Aug. 30 to the DPWH 7, in accordance with DENR Administrative Order 2018-16.
The permit allowed the DPWH 7 to cut four narra and one mahogany trees on Don Gil Garcia St. in Barangay Capitol Site.
Last Sept. 21, the DPWH started removing the trees.
According to Mauna, the cutting of trees in Barangay Capitol Site was not a regional activity but an initiative of the Cebu City District Engineering Office.
He also clarified that there are no “new” road-widening projects in Barangays Langtad, Inoburan, and Tinaan in the City of Naga. The ongoing tree-trimming in these barangays is part of their efforts to clear national highways of “obstructions.”
Six of the 32 trees scheduled to be cut in the City of Naga were trimmed by DPWH personnel between Oct. 2 and 4, said Alpha Allojado, Naga City Engineering Office head.
“Those trees are located along carriage ways. They’ve become obstructions. It is necessary to remove. That’s why we initiated their cutting through the recommendation of the environmental committee of the Regional Development Council (RDC) 7,” Mauna said in a mix of Cebuano and English.
Mauna pointed out that the agency has been implementing mitigation programs for projects that affect trees.
“We understand the importance of the trees but, of course, we need to balance the two things: the environmental conservation and the development. That’s why we have these mitigation programs. We are obliged to replace 100 seedlings for every one tree affected. We follow this because that’s part of the guidelines imposed by the DENR,” he said in a mix of Cebuano and English.
“We also follow the 15-centimeter rule. If the tree’s diameter is under 15 centimeters, the recommendation is to ‘earth ball’ it, not to cut it. The tree will be relocated. If the tree’s diameter exceeds 15 centimeters, it has to be cut. The explanation for that is the carbon sequestration of the tree is no longer be optimized,” he added.
Carbon sequestration is the process involved in carbon capture and the long-term storage of atmospheric carbon dioxide or other forms of carbon to mitigate or defer global warming.
Mauna said to ensure that these mitigation activities are implemented and monitored, the DPWH entered into an agreement, through a memorandum of agreement, with the DENR in 2018.
“We would replace them and we have funds allocated for that. We will transfer the money to the DENR so the DENR will be the one to implement the seedling replacement program,” he said.
Instead of the initially proposed three-year monitoring of the planted seedlings, they have agreed on five years instead, he said.
“That gives us assurance that these trees will survive. Once the tree cutting permit is issued, we will give the funds to DENR. Last 2018, we had 27 projects affecting trees. The budget to replace the trees was more than P100 million,” Mauna said in a mix of Cebuano and English. (WBS)