Carcar mayor: No talks on treesBy Doris C. Bongcac, Jessa Chrisna Marie J. Agua
Cebu Daily News
From the ecological to the superstitious, residents and officials of Carcar City listed their reasons for opposing plans to cut down century old trees for a national road-widening project.
Carcar City Mayor Nicepuro Apura yesterday said there was no consultation made with the city on the fate of the trees that line the highway.
He said the city opposes any move to cut them down.
“We are not sure if they are going to cut down the trees or divert the road from trees. But we are hoping that the road will be diverted to save the trees,” Apura said.
The Department of Public Works and Highways in Central Visayas (DPWH-7) is required to get positive endorsements from local governments of Carcar City, Naga City and the Province of Cebu to support a request for a tree cutting permit from Environment Secretary Ramon Paje.
A “public hearing” on options to cut or transfer the trees by earth balling was held Monday by the Naga City Council.
In Carcar, however, Apura said the first and last time DPWH held a public hearing on the road-widening project was last year when the DPWH met with affected homeowners.
“I met with the DPWH officials this morning (yesterday) to discuss another project. They did not mention any endorsement for the cutting of trees,” Apura said.
In barangay Perrelos, Carcar, several large acacia trees have numbers painted on the trunks by the DPWH, a preliminary step before removing them, depending on the final method.
Apura said if the earth balling of the trees proceed, “We can transfer the trees to our new 30-hectare new center. It is still along the road so tourists can still see the heritage trees,” he said.
An initial P80 million budget is set aside to purchase land for the proposed city center in the boundary of barangay Valladolid and Poblacion this year.
Sylvan Jakosalem, whose clan is ready to take legal action to stop the destruction of the trees on the Carcar-Naga section of the highway , said he was studying the situation carefully.
“If they (DPWH) really have the budget to earthball, why don’t they just replant them to the sides of the widened road? So they’ll just move them 10 meters sideways. That way, the trees will still serve the purpose they were planted there,” he said.
Jakosalem, chairman of the Cebu City Integrated Traffic Operations Management (Citom), is the youngest grandson of former Cebu governor Dionisio Jakosalem, who had the trees planted on boths sides of the road in 1915 through the Bureau of Public Works to to provide shade and scenery for passing travelers.
But almost a century later, Jakosalem said the road widening project was unnecessary because the south highway is not even congested.
The Citom chairman said he and his relatives are prepared to go to court.
He earlier sent an email to seek the intervention of President Benigno Aquino III and Transportation and Communications Secretary Mar Roxas.
Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia, who objected to the destruction of the trees when the issue broke out last year, said she will meet with DPWH and DENR officials next week.
“We’d like to listen to what is the methologoy and if it is possible… I cannot right now give a categorical answer but I am really for the protection of those trees. Of course, that’s part of our heritage,” she said.
Garcia said she would invite Jakosalem and the officials of Naga City and Carcar City in the meeting.
The Provincial Board (PB) on Monday approved a resolution inviting DPWH and DENR officials to shed light on the road widening project and its impact on the trees.
A DENR inventory in May identified 155 various types of trees that will be affected, including 25 century-old trees.
Aside from being considered an act that completely disregards their environmental and aesthetic values, the PB resolution said cutting down the trees may be illegal.
Carcar City residents like Crisinta of barangay Bugtong Cacia and 42-year-old Eva Navarra of barangay Perrelos said cutting down the giant acacia trees may disturb spirits that inhabit them.
“Residents here noticed that there is someone who swings around the trees. That’s why we are afraid if the trees will be cut,” Crisinta said.
But some residents like motorcycle driver Bert agree that the trees should be cut down.
“It’s better if it is cut , so that we will be far from danger. Those stories are just made up in order to stop the project,” said Bert, a resident of barangay Perrelos. With Correspondent Carmel Loise Matus and Ryan Nunez Wenceslao, Palompon Institute of Technology Intern