THE Cebu City Council has asked Mayor Edgardo Labella not to grant any request of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to cut trees if it cannot present mitigating measures.
The Council wants the DPWH to incorporate nature and tree preservation in all its projects within Cebu City, which City Engineer Kenneth Carmelita Enriquez said is doable.
The councilors approved the resolution during the Citizen’s Hour Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. The Citizen’s Hour is held during the City Council session to give residents an opportunity to raise concerns that affect them.
On Oct. 3, 2019, the DPWH 7 wrote a letter to City Councilor Jerry Guardo asking the City Council to pass a resolution for the removal of 122 trees along N. Bacalso Ave. that will be affected by a road widening project in the area. Guardo is the chairman of the committee on infrastructure.
In the letter signed by DPWH 7 Director Edgar Tabacon, the agency said it secured a tree cutting and earthballing permit (TCEP) from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-City Environment and Natural Resources Office (Cenro) on June 23, 2017 yet.
But due to the road right-of-way issues, which the DPWH 7 was able to resolve only recently, the TCEP expired. The TCEP is valid for only 50 days.
The P16.7 million project will make the road wider by 420 meters with an additional lane on each side.
The project stands to affect 122 trees. Of the number, only three trees—two ipil-ipil and one jackfruit—will be cut while the rest will be earthballed.
The trees will be transferred to plazas within the city and some will be planted at the Mahiga Creek.
The road widening project with drainage improvement is supposed to complement the Mambaling underpass.
Barry Morrel, a resident who owns a shop in the area, expressed his sentiments that it was also because of the Mambaling underpass project that the area started to get flooded. They did not experience flooding before the underpass was constructed, he said.
In its letter to Guardo, the DPWH said, “It is worth of note that the said road section be widened to complement the existing depressed structure at F. Llamas intersection in order to effectively decongest the traffic in this particular area and promote economic development for the betterment of Cebuanos.”
During the Citizen’s Hour, Morrel questioned the DPWH’s statement that the additional lanes would improve the economic situation.
“How can the second lane contribute to the economic situation? Because for us, it will only get worse. There’s no reason to cut these trees. They provide shade for us. Just concentrate on finding the solutions,” he said before the Council.
For his part, lawyer Benjamin Cabrido Jr., an environmentalist, wants all roadside trees that will be cut to be given administrative due process.
He said the tree the DPWH is referring to in the letter must be the same tree that will be cut or earth-balled.
Every roadside tree that is cut, he also wants replaced with two to three trees in other areas.
Cabrido also urged the public to value all the trees around them.
“You will only appreciate the value of this tree when you’re already inside the intensive care unit where oxygen is expensive,” he said.
In a corollary motion after the Citizen’s Hour, Councilor Alvin Dizon requested the DPWH to secure a locational clearance and development permit from the City Planning Office.
Councilor Phillip Zafra also asked the DPWH 7 and the Cebu City Engineering District, to closely coordinate with the City through the Department of Engineering and Public Works for the smooth implementation of the project. Both motions were approved.
In an earlier interview, Labella said he personally does not want to grant the request of the DPWH, but as his administrative duty, he directed Ccenro head John Jigo Dacua to study and evaluate the agency’s request.
In early October, Labella sent a letter to Tabacon requesting him not to cut any more trees within Cebu City as it is contrary to his administration’s thrust to plant and grow three million trees in three years.
In an interview Tuesday, Tabacon said he is willing to sit down with environmentalists to hear their concerns on tree-cutting for road widening projects.
He invited all concerned environmentalists to sit down with them and join in the planning to discuss how they could meet halfway.
“We do not have the monopoly on ideas. It would be better if we sit down together so that we can talk and hear their suggestions also,” he said.
His invitation came after Cabrido filed a petition for a Writ of Kalikasan with urgent prayer for the issuance of a temporary protection order before the Court of Appeals on Oct. 3.
Cabrido had said the cutting of roadside trees violated Republic Act 3571 or the Act Prohibiting the Cutting, Destroying or Injuring of Planted or Growing Trees, Flowering Plants and Shrubs or Plants of Scenic Value along Public Roads, in Plazas, Parks, School premises, or in any other public pleasure ground, among others. (JJL, WBS)