Editorial: Save the trees in Poro

Editorial Cartoon by John Montecillo
Editorial Cartoon by John Montecillo

Recently, Mayor Gary Rama and Vice Mayor Dina Rama were featured as benefactors giving new shoes for the Poro team participating in the recent Cong. Duke Frasco Cup 2024, according to a recent gratitude post on the official Facebook page of the Municipality of Poro.

On the same portal four days earlier, a post advised Poro residents to “conserve water” due to water disruptions caused by a “broken transformer.” The water interruption affected the following areas: “Teguis, Western Poblacion, and Eastern Poblacion… the Mahayahay Reservoir, from Mercedes to Esperanza.”

These are not by far the only social media (socmed) posts about Poro, a coastal town in Cebu province whose claim to recent fame may be its mention, along with the towns of San Francisco, Tudela, and Pilar, in the “One Camotes Island” jingle played during the recent “Suroy-Suroy Sugbo Enchanting One Camotes Island” tour that included Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia.

Another group of Porohanons has also taken to socmed to amplify their campaign to oppose the cutting down of more than 700 trees, including century-old perennials, to give way to a Cebu Provincial Government-funded road project.

Last May 16, concerned Poro citizens and their spokesperson, Rev. Fr. Joel Bonza, parish priest of the Sto. Niño Parish in central Poro, announced during a press conference that a Capitol plan to expand the provincial roads from Barangay Mercedes to Daan Paz will affect 714 trees of various species, including “mahogany, acacia, bangkal, talisay, and lumboy.”

According to a May 16 report by Earl Kim H. Padronia on SunStar Cebu, the road improvement project, covering more than 13 kilometers, has already taken down some trees along the route.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has placed a red mark on the trees identified for removal.

During the press conference, Bonza said that the citizens were not opposed to development but desired a balanced approach that would not cause ecological damage and worsen the climate crisis.

Poro is a fourth class municipality. According to the 2020 census, it has a population of 26,232 residents. The means of livelihood in Poro are farming, fishing, and tourism.

Bonza and other residents who want to have a dialogue with the Provincial Government have started an online signature campaign to convince the government to consider options other than the removal of the trees.

Local media have reached out to Poro Mayor Gary Rama and Vice Mayor Dina Rama to get documents showing that the Poro Municipal Government has secured the Environmental Impact Assessment of the road project, which is already on its third phase.

As of press time, no response was received from the Poro Municipal Government on this concern.

Bonza has asked the DENR to investigate the claims of the local government unit (LGU) that it has undertaken replanting of trees removed due to previous projects in road asphalting. According to the Sto. Niño Parish priest, the LGU has not disclosed the location of this replanting.

Bonza is urging that the government focuses on sustaining the growth of tree seedlings planted, rather than merely tree-planting. The Rama administration has pledged to plant 10,000 tree seedlings to replace the more than 700 trees that will be removed in the road improvement project.

Local leaders are not unmoved by heritage, natural and man-made. According to a post on the official Facebook page of the Municipality of Poro, “Gov. Gwen … was brought to tears” by the One Camotes Island jingle.

The post notes that the “Purely Poro jingle… (fit…) the beat of the island, highlighting the golden sunset, warmth of the people, and deep faith in God.”

One fervently hopes that Bonza and parishioners’ cry for balanced and sustainable development be heeded and responded to by Gov. Garcia, Mayor Rama, and Vice-Mayor Rama, who should see that a commitment to protect and sustain more than 700 trees secures the future of Poro and the rest of the planet.

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