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By: Vanessa Almeda | Published Monday, October 28, 2019

As the tasks of different government agencies vary, and interests of many groups may clash, Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, who called for a series of dialogues among stakeholders on the tree-cutting issue in southern Cebu, said they must all work together “for the interest of the environment and the people in general.”


“What we are doing here (in this dialogue)… All of us are for sustainable development and we would wish that we do not regard the other as adversaries here. We just have our own responsibilities, (and) sometimes these lead us to make hard decisions. But those decisions will always be weighed upon on our sense of responsibilities to the environment as well. Because the same air that you breathe is the same air that we breathe, as well as our children and our children’s children. Wa pa man moy apo pero ako naa na (you don’t have grandchildren yet, but I have). I just hope that this message comes across and sa inyo mga kauban ma (among your peers and you can also) relay sad na ninyo (this to them),” Garcia said.


During the meeting, the local chief executives were open to suggestions from the Philippine Earth Justice Center on where to plant the new trees to replace those that must be cut because of decay. The organization suggested that replanting will be done in the areas where the specific tree will be cut.


However, Garcia and Naga City Acting Mayor Christine Chiong said this is not practical because the trees that need to be cut are located along carriageways and above drainage systems, which are also considered sidewalk areas.


She instead suggested that the group give a specific area where to plant trees.


Kung naa moy ma (If you can) identify then give us an area,” Chiong said.


The City of Naga will simultaneously plant more than 20 Narra trees at their town park once the eight roadside trees will be cut.


Garcia met with officials of Naga and Carcar cities, the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (Penro), Department of Public Works and Highways-Central Visayas (DPWH 7) and civil society organization on the results of the reassessment of the 28 trees (not 32 as earlier reported) that were supposedly scheduled for cutting.


“In answer to that plan, Narra trees five feet and above will be planted right at the Naga park,” Garcia said in a meeting on Friday, October 25.


She said the LGU is still looking for more of these trees – “could be more than 20” – that can be planted soon.


Garcia said this is the city’s own initiative, on top of the 100 tree seedlings that the DPWH is required to plant for every single tree that will be cut.


Based on a memorandum of agreement between the DPWH and the DENR, the DENR is tasked to identify the area and to plant the trees.


Acting Naga City Mayor Christine Vanessa Chiong for her part said she already requested the DENR that a portion of these seedlings be planted in Naga City.


Barangay Cantao-an in Naga City was seen as possible site for the tree planting.


DPWH 7 Director Edgar Tabacon said under the 2019 road expansion program, the department will be cutting 5,000 trees which it will replaced with 500,000 tree seedlings.


The department, he said, allocated P143 million for the planting including maintenance of each tree for a period of five years or an estimated P270 per tree.


“While mangita tag area sa Naga nga matamnan sa replacement, we can do coordination meeting to discuss (what we can do),” Chiong said.


During last week’s meeting a total of eight trees were recommended to be cut while nine will be preserved.


The Naga City LGU proposed for only seven trees to be cut but another tree was included as part of the recommendation of tree pathologist Dr. Ernesto Militante.


The Naga LGU deferred to the DPWH 12 trees for another reassessment, this was reduced to 11 as of Friday, October 25.


Meanwhile, Chiong clarified that instead of the 32 trees that were initially identified for cutting, only 28 were reconsidered for reassessment by the DPWH, Penro and Cenro and the Naga LGU. (Vanessa L. Almeda)