“God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools.”John Muir
By Alex P. Vidal
There are good reasons why we should preserve our age-old trees along Gen. Luna Street affected by road-widening project.
Trees have helped beautify Iloilo City not only along highways, but also along the river and public plazas. It was said that Dr. Jose Rizal was infatuated with our old trees when he made a brief stopover in Iloilo City when he was exiled in Dapitan in 1896. Gen. McArthur was also awed with the old trees in Plaza Libertad when he visited the city after World War II.
The late former National Press Club president and former sectoral Rep. Arturo Borjal, a many-time Iloilo City visitor, once told this writer Iloilo City has some of the oldest and most unique trees in the Philippines.
“The city government as well as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of Tourism must preserve those trees and should not allow progress and development to be used as excuse to cut them,” explained Borjal while looking at the lunok tree beside the city hall.
City aldermen and the Department of Public Works and Highways recently were at loggerheads when several workers were caught in flagrante delicto cutting some trees along the Gen. Luna highway for the road-widening project.
The spat was renewed after Councilor Joshua Alim questioned a so-called verbal agreement between the city and the DPWH where they supposedly agreed last month to uproot the trees, to be replaced with palms instead. DPWH resumed its road widening project two weeks ago a posteriori the agreement, after works were temporarily suspended as a result of the protest from the city council which was supported by the DENR by refusing to grant DPWH clearance.
There really was no clear agreement, thundered Alim
He hollered: “They assumed all the while that everything was okay when there really was no clarity on some things. With all due respect, daw naghaum-haum lang ang tanan that there is no problem at all.
“The earlier agreement on the meeting’s venue was not followed, and I was not informed. When I arrived at the new venue, the meeting was already over,” he further stressed insisting he was not present during the April 29 meeting.
Freda Mae Sorsano, reporting for Panay News recently, wrote: “DPWH’s Iloilo City District Engineering Office asked the City Council for a confirmation that indeed the legislative body had agreed to such an agreement. The DENR is requiring a confirmation from the City Council before giving DPWH the green light to proceed with the uprooting of the trees. Alim convinced his colleagues to defer giving such confirmation. He also sought another meeting between city councilors and DPWH officials led by Regional Director Edilberto Tayao. He said he will raise several concerns.”
“First time ko nakakita nga sa tunga madugang road space,” Alim said. “Kag kun mabuhin sila kahoy kag islan man gihapon sang kahoy, paano sila kadugang road space?”
“Aside from Tayao, City District Engineer Rodney Gustilo and representatives from DENR and the Department of Agriculture will also be summoned to the meeting set on May 28. The trees, mostly pine trees and eucalyptus, were planted more than 60 years ago upon the construction of General Luna. In a previous interview, Tayao said the “best option” was to continue with the road widening. “Nagkaroon kami ng conclusion to push through with a win-win solution. Patuloy po ang project,” said Tayao. The regional director explained why it is advisable to replace trees on General Luna Street. “There are trees whose roots will grow big enough and possibly damage the pavement,” he said.
“Tayao said the trees need to be removed because the road will be expanded by uprooting all the trees on the street’s center island and have that part paved instead of expanding on the sides.”
It is said that deciding which trees to preserve, and designing development around them often seems like a ‘chicken or the egg’ problem. Environmentalists suggests that the trees suitable for preservation must be identified before designing around them and the design strongly influences the selection of trees to be preserved.
A preliminary evaluation of the trees to determine those that are suitable for preservation is seen as one way out of this dilemma. Environmentalists also suggested comparing information with conceptual site plans and identifying the trees suitable for saving, and modify the site plan to accommodate the desirable trees. Working out the details of grading and preservation for trees that will remain is seen as a final stroke.
Environmentalists say in most cases the costs to preserve trees are significant. Costs accrue because the land dedicated for tree preservation is unavailable for building, structures, and techniques to minimize damage to trees require extra design and construction attention, and affected trees must be maintained to support long-term health. These costs will be borne by the public, whether through increased taxes to pay for trees in public rights-of-way, higher homeowner association dues, greater commercial rents, higher home prices or direct payment for maintenance. Trees should be selected carefully, keeping their value and contribution to the new environment in mind, it was further suggested.