Council tells commission to comply with DENR laws
Kristine B. Quintas/FPL (The Freeman) - March 19, 2015 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - The Cebu City Parks and Playground Commission was ordered by the City Council to strictly abide by the guidelines on earth-balling of trees.

The members of the council also asked Mayor Michael Rama to consider the importance of plants in the city’s landscape as mitigator of climate change.

Rama earlier said he will remove anything including trees if he sees them as threat to the safety of the motorists and pedestrians. The council’s committee on environment chaired by Councilor Nida Cabrera found out that the commission failed to secure a permit from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for the earth-balling of at least seven Indian trees in the center island of Escario Street near the Capitol.

The uprooted trees that were transferred to the city nursery in Barangay Kalunasan were part of the nearly 20 trees subject for earth-balling. This was reportedly part of Rama’s initiative to reduce the size of the center island and give more space for traffic. The junction in front of the Capitol is where heavy traffic congestion usually occurred.

CCPPC chief Arlie Gesta explained that earth-balling permit is not necessary since the uprooted trees were just “ornamental plants.”

Cabrera, in her privilege speech yesterday, stressed that the commission should secure a permit from DENR before any undertaking to remove trees either “to ease traffic congestion or for any other reason” so as not to violate any environmental laws.

“Instead of removing these trees that have already adapted to the pollution within their surrounding and help improve air quality, such as those in Escario Street, we enhance them and ensure that they survive for a longer time to help mitigate the urban heat and climate change,” she said.

“I can only hope that with the drive of beautification and pedestrianization, even easing of traffic congestions, our officials and heads of the offices concerned shall also consider the importance of preserving our remaining trees,” she added.

Cabrera is hoping that if there are no other possible remedies than removing the trees, the undertaking should be in accordance with the existing laws.

Presidential Decree No. 953 prohibits and punishes the cutting, destroying or injuring of planted or growing trees, flowering plants and shrubs or plants of scenic values along public roads, in plazas, parks, school premises or in any other public ground.

Section 3 of the PD mandates an approval from the duly authorized agency, which is DENR, before the cutting of naturally growing or planted trees of any kind, including ornamental plants.

The unauthorized cutting of trees, according to the said law, shall be punished with imprisonment not less than six months and not more than two years or a fine of not less than P500 and not more than P5,000 or both at the discretion of the court.

However, it is also stated in the same section that cutting, destroying, damaging or injuring of plants is allowed if entails public safety or the pruning is necessary if it aims to enhance beauty but only upon the approval of the authorized agency. — (FREEMAN)

ARLIE GESTA BARANGAY KALUNASAN CABRERA CEBU CITY PARKS AND PLAYGROUND COMMISSION CITY COUNCIL COUNCILOR NIDA CABRERA DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES ESCARIO STREET MAYOR MICHAEL RAMA TREES
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