‘Safety before sentimentality’
PB members not opposed to cutting trees; Electric poles also delay Naga road projectCebu Daily News
Not just acacia trees, but electric poles stick out between stretches of newly paved road in Naga City.
The obstructions reveal lack of clear planning for a proposed four-lane highway, an ongoing road widening project which has reopened debate about the fate of heritage trees in south Cebu, especially after the cost of earth-balling ruled out replanting as too expensive.
Members of the Cebu Provincial Board (PB) yesterday expressed more concern for the delay in the road project than the loss of trees that may be cut down.
“We really need the road to be widened. If we invoke sentimental reasons, the trees have to be relocated somewhere else,” said PB Member Wilfredo Caminero.
“And if the only reason (for the delay) is the sentimental value of the trees, I think we have to choose between the sentimental reason and safety of the public.”
No resolution was passed yet in the PB’s regular session, where Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale said most members were “for development”.
She said a common stand still has to be made after they were briefed yesterday by representatives of the Dept. of Public Works and Highways and the Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources.
Cebu Daily News learned that the 155 trees identified in a government inventory by DPWH and DENR, of which 25 are century-old acacia trees, refer only to a section in Naga City, the first of five segments of a proposed Naga-San Fernando-Carcar road project endorsed by Rep. Eduardo Gullas of the 1st district.
The full extent of damage to trees along the road – fruit bearing trees, acacias and other species – has not yet been counted, including a thicker corridor of acacias in barangay Perrelos, Carcar that are iconic nature landmarks in south Cebu.
In a meeting last Friday at his University of the Visayas office with both agencies, Gullas asked for road plans for the full stretch of the project to avoid the delays now holding up the contractor Adlawan Construction.
A four-lane highway has long been Gullas’ vision for the south, one he started in 1992 when he lobbied for the widening of N. Bacalso Avenue from Cebu City to Tinaan, Naga City.
The focus of yesterday’s PB discussion was a 3.1 kilometer section from barangay Tinaan to Langtad in Naga City, where the DENR said one century-old tree was already cut down as part of nine trees identified as “defective” and a risk to motorists.
PB Member Julian Daan of the 1st district, said more vehicle accidents would occur if they don’t support cutting down the trees, whether they are “defective” or not.
“Development has gone to the south. The road is too narrow and there are many accidents. and it is very traffic especially in (barangay) Pitalo.
It’s really hard to have a widened road with trees on the sides. If we we will not cut the trees og mag tipas-tipas ta, daghan kaayo ma disgrasya,” Daan said.
He said the road would remain for many generations but a tree has a lifespan and would eventually die.
DPWH project engineer Marilyn Ojeda told Capitol legislators that Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia already gave her official endorsement to cut down “defective” trees in the first phase of the project.
What was not presented yesterday was a complete road plan for the proposed-four lane highway that would show that ongoing road widening, with some utility posts in between segments, was only for a portion of the highway from Tinaan to Langtad, Naga City.
Capitol legislators were more concerned about the presence of trees in the gaps of the pavement and progress of the roadwork.
Nobody asked whether a long-term plan for the road widening was made before the contractor started work.
PB Member Sun Shimura said avoiding the trees in the road widening and making a road cut on the side of the mountain to make way for a road is too dangerous.
“Dako og possibility nga mutaas ang disgrasya. For me it is better to just remove the trees,” Shimura said.
Caminero of Argao said the Naga-Carcar road widening project is the realization of a dreams of road users that goes beyond Carcar City.
“I am one of the road users of that very vital road. It’s like a dream come true for them when they look at the road development. We are suffering already because of that narrow highway. We really need that road to be widened and if the only reason (for the delay) is the sentimental value of the trees. I think we have to choose between the sentimental reason and safety of the public,” Caminero said.
Vice Gov. Magpale thought a news report about a P130 million cost for earth-balling was for the 16 remaining “healthy” heritage trees in Naga but she was corrected by DENR Forester Cleo Colis of the Forest Management Services who said this was computed based on the average cost of earth-balling 130 other trees in the road section.
“Why would we spend P100 million for trees if a tree dies eventually?” Magpale said thanking Daan for reminding the board that a tree has a lifespan./Marian Z. Codilla, Senior Reporter with Correspondents Jessa Chrisna Marie J. Agua and Carmel Loise Matus