Public safety more urgent
Kristine B. Quintas and Jessa J. Agua (The Freeman) - March 21, 2015 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - Life or trees?

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama posed this question following the controversy on the earth-balling of trees without the required permits from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Rama said getting permits is only secondary in importance to emergency and security.

“Permit subordinates emergency, permit subordinates when situation comes,” he said.

Rama said he consider trees as vital to Cebu’s landscape as a mitigator of urban heat and climate change, however he said it is also important to be practical in some aspects.

“Trees will always be there as very important. But if trees will practically create danger (we have to undertake some measures),” he said.

“Which do you prefer: a tree at the middle of the road waiting for disaster or death to come or a tree balled out and transferred to a safety nursery? This is a very simple logic,” he asked.

Rama believes that if trees planted on the center islands are removed, the flow of traffic will improve and chokepoints will disappear.

At least seven Indian trees were removed from the center island of Escario Street near the Capitol without an earth-balling permit from DENR.

This was done to reduce the size of the center island and give more space for traffic since the junction in front of the Capitol is where heavy traffic congestion usually occurs.

The mayor said measures has to be undertaken to prevent the loss of life and property. He dared those who oppose this to file a case against him.

“Is there anyone in the council who will pay for death, property damage? Death should not be awaited action has to be done now,” he said.

“They just refuse to see it. If you start to be advocating you start to be deaf and blind. You have to be practical, not myopic,” he added.

SERGING TREES

Meanwhile, the regional environment agency lauded the commitment from the Department of Public Works and Highways to replace the “missing” trees along Serging Osmeña Boulevard but emphasized that the development will not affect the ongoing case on the unauthorized removal of what were mostly fire trees for the road concreting project a year ago.

“The replacement will not affect a criminal case filed against WTCI as this is a mandatory requirement as stated in the earth ball permit issued to DPWH-7 last March 24, 2014,” Department of Environment and Natural Resources-7 spokesman Eddie Llamedo said.

The environment agency has submitted a motion for reconsideration after the lower court dismissed the case filed against the contractor for removing the fully-grown trees without securing a special tree-cutting permit from the DENR central office through a recommendation from the regional office.

Moreover, DENR-7 will not lift the Cease and Desist Order issued April 4, 2014 unless there is actual delivery of the 7,900 seedlings which will cost about P197,500 or equivalent to P25 per seedling, to be placed in Camp Marina in preparation for the planting come rainy season in an area to be identified by the agency, Llamedo added.

Upon the lifting of the CDO, the earth-balling of the remaining 66 trees can already be done.

The Cebu City Council, through committee on environment chairwoman Councilor Nida Cabrera, pushed for the earth-balling of these trees in order to save their health and remove them from the sorry state of being closely surrounded by cemented roads that threaten their survival.

The 7,900 trees will cover about 16 hectares in National Greening Program plantations in forestland or timberland areas.

The number of the replacement trees was derived from the ratio of 1:100 ration formulized by DENR for every “perished” tree.

Rama wants DPWH to hasten the purchase of the seedlings.

“Do it fast. I don’t want it to be delayed again,” he said.

Apart from the concerned agencies, the Department of Health, through its union members, has pledged to participate in the tree-planting activity.

The responsibility of DPWH goes beyond providing tree replacement as they have to also ensure the 100 percent survival rate and maintenance of the trees for a period of three years.

The Serging Osmeña Boulevard Port Corridor road rehabilitation project, which is worth P289,507,440, was started March 2014 and is targeted to end April this year.

The project covers the 2,506.44-meter stretch of the Cebu City seaport road and is already 85 percent completed as of February 25, according to Department of Public Works and Highways spokeswoman Marie Mignon Nillama. — /BRP (FREEMAN)

BOULEVARD PORT CORRIDOR CAMP MARINA CEASE AND DESIST ORDER CEBU CITY DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS AND HIGHWAYS RAMA SERGING OSME TREES
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