DENR stops cemetery dev’t in Cebu City with 300 mahogany trees illegally cut
CEBU CITY –– The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has stopped the development of a lot where a new cemetery will be built amid the rising number of deaths caused by the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) here.
Mardione De Los Reyes, forester at the Enforcement and Monitoring Section of the City Environment and Natural Resources office, said some 300 mahogany trees in Sitio Katives in Barangay Guba where the Cebu City Botanical Memorial Garden will rise were cut without a permit.
“We are doing an inventory. We will record everything and send it to the office for the investigation,” said De Los Reyes in an ABS-CBN report.
The development surprised Cebu City Councilor David Tumulak, the proponent of an ordinance for the creation of a city-owned cemetery to address the lack of burial places in the city.
During a public consultation last Wednesday, Tumulak said they were told by the DENR that mahogany is not considered an endangered species.
“I just learned on Thursday that a restraining order was issued by DENR,” he said in an interview.
Tumulak said a certain Cerila Alcantara, a caretaker in a nearby Muslim cemetery in Barangay Guba, planted the mahogany trees on the city-owned lot and did not oppose cutting those trees.
The councilor called on the DENR, the Department of Health, and the city government to talk things over and find ways to address the concerns.
“If there are certain permits to be secured, the executive department can work on that. We will follow the rules. I just hope that they (DENR) won’t make it too complicated considering the urgency of the matter,” he said.
Tumulak said Cebu City badly needs a new cemetery since all 11 private and 15 public cemeteries here were already overcrowded.
“Our cemeteries are full. What will we do with dead bodies in our city? I hope by God’s grace, we will be able to go on with our plan to have a new cemetery,” he said.
Tumulak said there has been a surge in the number of deaths in the city, not just of persons confirmed with COVID-19, but also of individuals suspected to have contracted the virus in addition to those who died due to other causes.
“Most of the existing public cemeteries in Cebu City, mostly owned and managed by the Archdiocese of Cebu, are full and can no longer accommodate additional burials. This may lead to the delay in the burial of a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 fatality which may cause the further spread of the virus and will add to the problems faced by the city,” he said.
The Cebu City government earlier reported that bodies have remained in hospital morgues as funeral homes and crematoriums were fully booked
The Department of Interior and Local Government, in its memorandum circular no. 2020-063, ordered the burial, preferably through cremation, of persons suspected to have contracted the COVID-19 or those who tested positive for the virus within 12 hours after his or her death.
“Given this 12-hour requirement for burial, funeral parlors are recently always at full capacity. Adding to this problem is the high cost of cremation for dead bodies,” Tumulak said.
An ordinary burial costs between P10,000 and P20,000 while cremation fee ranges from P30,000 to P60,000.
“While many Cebuanos go for the cremation of their loved ones, there are still those who cannot afford it, that’s why we need a cemetery,” he said.
Tumulak’s proposed ordinance stated that strict guidelines should be implemented in the creation of a new cemetery in Guba to ensure that the buried bodies will not damage the environment, especially that the project is near the protected landscape of Cebu.
As of July 9, the Department of Health recorded a total of 7,175 COVID-19 cases in Cebu City with 336 deaths and 3,516 recoveries.
At least 1,447 persons were admitted in hospitals while 1,876 others stayed at the city’s quarantine facilities.
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