Yellows ribbons, inventory for Carcar city’s lush canopy
More than 100 law students of the University of Cebu-Banilad yesterday tied yellow ribbons around century-old acacia trees along the road in barangay Perrelos, Carcar City.
With this, they started an inventory of trees at risk of being cut down for the P1-billion Naga-Carcar road-widening project.
Their output will be useful in a campaign by the Philippine Earth Justice Center (PEJC) to preserve trees considered old enough to be part of Cebu’s heritage.
A tree-cutting permit issued last month by the environment department covers only the first phase of the project, a 3.1-kilometer stretch in Naga City, two localities away where work has been delayed since last year.
Mostly fruit trees are affected with 42 cleared for cutting down and 92 to be uprooted and earthballed in Naga City so that road work can be completed by by the contractor by December.
The first and second year UC law students, who are taking up the subject of legal research and environmental law, were divided into groups by environmental lawyer Rose Liz Osorio of PEJC to start an inventory.
The canopy of trees in Perrelos, Carcar is the lushest part of Cebu’s southern highway. It has often been photographed in magazines and travel guides as a landmark of the rural south.
The oldest trees were planted in the 1920s during the term of then Gov. Dionisio Jakosalem.
Today several tree trunks have been painted green and marked by numbers by government surveyors in preparation for the road-widening project.
Carcar officials said they don’t know yet exactly how many will be affected.
Carcar City councilor Roger Montesclaros, who welcomed the group yesterday, said he requested the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for a survey to identify which trees have deteriorated with age and disease and need to be cut down or rehabilitated for safety reasons.
“We are also convinced that among the heritage trees along the Perrelos area, there are sickly trees which need to be cut down,” Montesclaros said.
But he said he can’t allow the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to cut them down so easily.
”Those heritage trees are our jewels,” he said.
He said some of the trees deteriorated because of the old practice of burning piled leaves below the tree.
“We have been waiting for DENR to give us the inventory of the trees for three years already,” Montesclaros said.
“We were just surprised to read in the newspaper that the DENR gave a special tree cutting permit to cut those 42 trees in Naga,” he said.
There are 60 full grown acacia trees in Carcar City including those in the boundaries of Carcar – Sibonga and Carcar – Barili. Montesclaros said American soldiers rested in the shade of the acacia trees to avoid the summer heat.
Karl Frederick Arriola, a 22-year-old, second year law student, said there should be a public dialogue between Carcar City residents and the government.
“The government should listen to the people. We want to show that we have a voice in the matter,” he said, adding that there were other approaches to development.
“They can lessen the use of vehicles instead of cutting down heritage trees,” he said.
Last Friday, PEJC representatives met with Gov. Hilario Davide III. Osorio said they pointed out the need for public consultation and an inventory before any tree cutting to comply with the Heritage Conservation Act as well as other environment laws.
Osorio said her group will consult the National Heritage Institute Commission and ask it to investigate plans of the DPWH and DENR as well as issue a cease-and-desist order on the road expansion.
Roadwork has been delayed since last year because several trees and utility posts are obstructions in the middle or the sides of the project.
Phase 1 was supposed to be completed by December 6 last year. The first phase awarded to contractor AR Adlawan Construction costs P123 million.
A P400 million allocation was realigned last year by former Cebu City south district congressman Tomas Osmeña to help continue the road-expansion, a legacy project of then Rep. Eduardo R. Gullas, whose grandson, Rep. Samsam Gullas, is continuing it.
The next phase is estimated to cost P50 million and would affect 72 trees in San Fernando town and 75 trees in Carcar.
In a meeting with Gullas last year, DENR Regional Executive Director Isabelo Montejo said the design of the next phase must be planned ahead before a budget is allocated.
“We have to address all issues or else we will be facing the same problems in the next phase. The one in Perrelos is very crucial. Nothing much in the first segment,” Montejo said.
Last month the DENR issued a special permit to DPWH to cut 42 trees in barangays Tinaan, Inoburan and Langtad in Naga which includes eight old acacia trees in danger of collapsing.
Another 16 century-old acacia trees were ordered preserved in the same location.
One of the conditions of the permit is for DPWH to replace the affected trees by planting 13,800 indigenous native trees such as narra and mabolo as replacements. /Marian Z. Codilla and Christine Emily L. Pantaleon
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