Editorial: A dream of green or grey

Editorial Cartoon by John Montecillo
Editorial Cartoon by John Montecillo

At Poro, civil society has succeeded in getting the attention of the government to focus on some 700 trees endangered by a road improvement project.

But what about the forest?

SunStar Cebu’s editorial last May 20 dwelled on the online signature campaign initiated by Rev. Fr. Joel Bonza, parish priest of the Sto. Niño Parish in central Poro, and other citizens to save 714 trees that were already tagged for destruction.

Bonza and the Poro residents appealed to the Cebu Provincial Government and the Poro Municipal Government to balance modernization and ecological sustainability in their development initiatives.

In a meeting with the church, Poro Municipal Government and the project contractor, Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia said that “no trees will be cut without justification and careful consideration of laws and regulations,” reported Earl Kim H. Padronia in SunStar Cebu last May 22.

For now, that seems to be the best reassurance that Capitol can give to Poro stakeholders.

Trees will be removed when they threaten public safety, said the governor. Both the government and the contractor identified such trees “near tight corners, uphill or downhill sections, and cliffs,” reported SunStar Cebu.

Which pose the greatest risk to the public: these precariously situated trees or a project that seeks to widen the provincial road from its current four meters to approximately 10 meters?

How many people die from a branch struck by lightning or an entire perennial uprooted by tree rot or typhoon?

Every year, how many casualties from

road accidents?

That Poro will have fewer trees at the conclusion of this infrastructure project is a certainty, given that Capitol, the Municipal Government, and the contractor urge, immediately after saying there will be judicious culling of life-threatening trees, the need to “expedite” the road-widening project, given the anticipated onset of the wet season.

Rains bring about “landslides” and “flooding,” which are life-threatening for contractors, argued the proponents of Poro’s modernization.

If anyone had cared to ask a grade school student in Poro, it may be fairly certain that he or she may have been able to illuminate to the government and the contractor the many virtues of trees, which, among others, prevent landslides and floods with no added burden on the people’s taxes.

Given the inevitability of that famous development motto — “government project do not delay” — Bonza and other Poro citizens will just have to strengthen their vigilance to protect the local trees, some of which are among the oldest Poro dwellers, existing long before the inexorable march of progress, the vicissitudes of governance, the predictable priorities of politicians and contractors.

During the May 22 dialogue centered on the fate of the approximately 700 trees endangered by the Capitol’s latest infrastructure project, no mention was made of the whereabouts of the tree seedlings the Poro Municipal Government claims to have replanted to replace trees removed in an earlier road asphalting project in Poro.

This was a concern Bonza and other Poro residents asked the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to investigate as no one in the administration of Mayor Edgar Rama seems to recall where the tree seedlings were planted in the island.

This collective amnesia is not uncommon. In place of green, grey pockets that release harmful carbon are increasingly taking over more areas in the planet. In time, forests will be unknown to generations.

Trees may be better managers of the ecosystem than humans. Humans are just limitless in greed.

The chief attraction of Poro, beyond farming and fishing, is eco-tourism. Having a short memory for the verdant gifts from nature and an understandable need for stability and growth, the people of Poro must decide which paths to take: planet-depleting concrete dreams or sustainable co-existence with other life forms.

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