Gullas: Don’t touch century-old treesBy Marian Z. Codilla
Cebu Daily News
Workers pour concrete for ongoing road-widening in barangay Tinaan, Naga City, where an old acacia tree stands right in the middle.
It looks too late to stop the progress despite an outcry by environment advocates and the Jakosalem clan, whose grandfather, the late Gov. Dionisio Jakosalem, had the trees planted circa 1915.
Approval is being awaited for a permit for tree cutting but the contractor has his eye on a Dec. 6 deadline to finish the first segment of the P123 million project.
For now, they work around the towering trees, a total of 155 lining Naga to Carcar cities, including 25 century-old acacias planted during the American period that form a shady canopy that mark the gateway to Cebu’s southern towns.
“Magputol-putol gyud ang road concreting because we were instructed to proceed with the widening and to just avoid the trees and electric posts,” said Gerald Undag, project engineer of AR Adlawan Construction.
The tree photographed by Cebu Daily News stands in barangay Tinaan, part of the first segment spanning Tinaan to Langtad in Naga city.
Cebu Rep. Eduardo Gullas of the 1st district, proponent of the 20-kilometer road widening from Naga to Carcar, said the old trees should not be cut.
“I have been silent about it but yesterday I told Environment Secretary Paje (my stand) since he is the head in the inter-agency meetings (with DPWH),” Gullas told Cebu Daily News in a phone interview.
“These are not ordinary trees. These are century (old) acacia trees so I told the DENR led by their secretary as much as possible to admonish Montejo.”
Gullas was referring to DENR Regional Executive Director Isabelo Montejo, who has referred to the central office the DPWH’s application for a tree cutting permit or tree balling option.
Only the DENR Secretary can issue the permit.
It was not clear why Gullas didn’t act earlier to stop the project or redirect the road widening after promising last year that he would ensure no damage to the iconic series of giant trees in his district.
Options of realigning funds for a diversion road or designing the highway with the trees as center islands were earlier raised.
Gullas said he met the Secretary Paje during their meeting with the Senate committee on appropriations last Monday.
He said Paje promised to look into it and personally values the heritage value of the trees, but added that Paje indicated he would rely on technical experts for a final decision.
A total of P27 million was allocated in the national budget for property acquisition in 2010.
Gullas said another P123 million was allocated for the actual project in 2011 and 2012.
“That is why the project has already started. But notice that the concreting ends near the trees,” Gullas said.
The work continues the road widening of Natalio Bacalso Avenue from Bulacao, Cebu City to Naga which started in 1993.
“From Naga to Carcar there are only two expanded lanes. I want it to be four lanes so that investors won’t limit themselves to Naga but go as far as Carcar and beyond. But the problem is there are century-old acacia trees. There are sectors in the community that don’t want it removed.”
Meanwhile a second inspection is being made of the 25 century-old trees earlier identified from Naga to Carcar.
A 15-man team, with representatives of Naga, its two affected barangays, the Capitol and DPWH, started to check the trees’ vigor, health and root system.
The 10-day inventory, which ends Friday, will determine which heritage trees are strong enough to be preserved and which ones need to be cut down.
Montejo ordered the reassessment after an Aug. 3 dialog with the DPWH and contractor. An earlier joint inventory identified nine of the 25 century trees as dying, diseased or ready to fall.
Montejo last month ordered the DPWH to advise the Naga contractor to stop excavating soil too close to the trees, which would damage the roots, create instability and pose danger to passing pedestrians.
For now AR Adlawan Construction has been instructed to avoid all acacia trees in their path until the fate of the trees is resolved.
With this, sections are being paved at different intervals, skipping the trees.
The contractor was given until December 6 to finish the first of five segments of the Naga-Carcar road widening project.
AR Adlawan Construction won the bidding for the first segment in the amount of P71,120,852.
The contractor is cementing the compacted extended north bound lane and started clearing all obstructions within the 20-meter road right of way of the national highway.
However the concreting is irregular because they have to skip all the trees.
The project starts near the Cemex Philippines plant in Tinaan, Naga where a dead tree stump was photographed by CDN last month.
Houses, fences and other structures have been marked for demolition.
“We are just pushing for the deadline because we don’t want to be delayed in our target date of accomplishment,” Undag told CDN.
A delay merits a penalty of one percent of ten percent of the project cost for each day of delay. With Correspondent Jessa Chrisna Marie J. Agua