Cebu News

To meet target date, S. Osmeña rehab non-stop despite trees controversy

Mitchelle L. Palaubsanon, Jessa J. Agua - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - The distraction of missing trees and threat of facing a criminal complaint aside, WT Construction Inc. is working on the Serging Osmeña Boulevard in Cebu City 24 hours a day.

WT was told to finish the project before the 2015 Sinulog, and it is already behind schedule as it did not start on its target date due to some concerns that needed straightening out.

Department of Public Works and Highways-7 Information Officer Marie Nillama said that the road expansion project will continue despite issuance of a cease and desist order by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-7 on earth-balling activities.

“Padayon gihapon ang proyekto (Implementation of the project is still continuing) because especially right now, we are taking advantage of the hot weather. Di lang sa to trabahuon ang lugar nga naay mga tanom (We would just avoid working on the part of the road where there are trees),” she said.

WT and DPWH-7 are currently in hot water after several trees in the center island of the said road went missing last week.

Although an earth-balling permit has been issued for the removal and supposedly transplanting of the trees in the center island, WT and DPWH-7 were instructed to do so only with the presence of authorized government agencies, including representatives from the Cebu City Parks and Playground Commission.

Early this week, however, the Cebu City Council revealed the disappearance of several trees from the center island, which both DPWH-7 and WT denied having knowledge of.

This prompted an investigation by the DENR-7, which says it would file a complaint against perpetrators tomorrow.

The Cebu City Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) also issued a cease and desist order, which the DPWH-7 received Friday morning, telling the agency and WT to stop the earth-balling of remaining trees.

The order also asked DPWH to explain the unsupervised removal of trees that led to the “mysterious disappearance” of trees from Serging Osmeña Blvd.

“Field inspection/investigation conducted by personnel of this Office (CENRO), together with the personnel of Cebu City Parks and Playground Commission, disclosed that subject plant was removed/balled out last March 30, 2014 without the close supervision of the involved government agencies and same was not transplanted into the designated areas identified by the Cebu City Parks and Playground Commission, which is in violation of the terms and conditions set forth in the permit,” CENRO said.

Earth-balling is a process of carefully removing or extracting a tree including the soil around it and transplanting it to ensure its continued growth.

DENR-7 Regional Executive Director Isabelo Montejo, however, stressed that the CDO signed by CENRO-Cebu City chief Anastacio Cabalejo is only applicable to the earth-balling of trees along the project route and not the road development itself.

He emphasized that no further earth-balling or cutting of trees along Serging Osmena Blvd. is allowed.

Montejo said an earth-balling permit is totally different from a tree cutting permit, as the former does not constitute cutting of trees, which needs prior clearance from the DENR Central Office.

 And as DENR-7 ordered the temporary suspension of the DPWH-7 earth-balling permit, a re-inventory of the remaining trees was also done by the local environment office to determine how many were cut and how many remain.  Result of the inventory made yesterday showed a total of 79 trees were removed from the center island, which is lower than the 88 originally reported.

“Based on the results of the re-inventory by forester Filemon Embalzado, Jr. with two personnel from CENRO Cebu City conducted today (yesterday), about 66 assorted species remain standing and at least 79 ‘disappeared’,” read the text message sent by DENR-7 Spokersperson Eddie Llamedo.

Of the 79 missing trees, 65 were fire trees, three acacias, two mangoes, two talisays, two duhats, a ficus, an iba, a narra, a neem tree, and a yellow summer tree. — /RHM (FREEMAN)

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