A tree stump was photographed by Cebu Daily News standing in the middle of towering century-old trees in barangay Tinaan, Naga City last Saturday.
The felled century old tree was seen on top of a limestone pile beside the stump, raising questions over when it was cut and who did so.
Evidence of the felled tree came amid a pending moratorium on the issuance of a tree-cutting permit by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) last April 30.
“As of the moment, we don’t have any idea about it. But I will send an inspection team this week and forward the report to concerned agencies,” Naga City Mayor Valdemar Chiong said in a phone interview.
DENR-7 spokesman Eddie Llamedo said there is no tree cutting permit issued for the P123 million Naga-Carcar cities road widening project.
“Our policy is we conduct investigation once we receive a complaint,” he said.
The road-widening project sponsored by Rep. Eduardo Gullas of Cebu’s 1st district began last April 11 and is scheduled for completion on Dec. 6.
The project will expand the two-lane road from Naga to Carcar City into four lanes.
About P27 million were allocated for the widening and removal of obstruction encroachment within the road right of way from Naga to Carcar.
Chiong said the amount may cover only indemnities for those affected by the project.
In Carcar City, more than 200 residents and business owners are reportedly affected by the road-widening.
Awarded to AR Adlawan Construction, the DPWH website said project status is at 25.5 percent.
Marie Nillama, information officer of the Department of Public Works and Highways in Central Visayas (DPWH-7), said they don’t have any updates on the status of the century-old trees affected by the ongoing road widening project.
An inventory of trees in Naga City was done in May 11 and 16 as requested by DPWH 7.
A complete inventory of 46 heritage trees along Naga and Carcar road was earlier done in December last year.
Chiong and Carcar City Mayor Nicepuro Apura earlier voiced resignation over the eventual cutting of century-old trees in Naga City in the north and Carcar City in the south due to the road-widening project.
However, Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia voiced opposition to the cutting of the century-old heritage trees, a sentiment articulated by Prof. Jojo Bersales, Capitol consultant to the Cebu Provincial Tourism Heritage Council.
Bersales said it is the voice of the citizens and local officials of Naga and Carcar that will count most in so far as preserving the heritage trees from the ongoing road project is concerned.
“Under the new national heritage law, it is the immediate stakeholders who will list these trees to be included as part of its natural heritage,” the chairman of the committee on sites, relics and structures said.
A dialogue between stakeholders and project implementors will also help in identifying possible solutions to raised concerns about the cutting of the trees, Bersales said.
“Heritage is not against development. Let us not do things without informing the people concerned. Let’s be transparent,” he said.
Bersales said the DPWH should be open with their plans so they can offer suggestions on how to preserve the trees.
Urban development planners like Architect Felino Palafox Jr. called for the preservation of aging trees, saying a 50-year-old tree’s value can be placed at P9 million due to its use as protection from soil erosion, oxygen production and others.
Options were raised to preserve the heritage trees in Naga and Carcar, including earth-balling and diverting the additional road from the centuries-old trees.
Earth balling consists of uprooting the entire tree and transferring it into a new location.
A diversionary road widening will place the old trees at the center island in between existing and additional roads.
The trees along Naga-Carcar were planted in 1915 by then Bureau of Public Works, the predecessor of the DPWH.
Two public fora were held by Naga and Carcar City officials to inform the residents about the road-widening project and its effect on the century-old trees in February last year.
Chiong admitted that they cannot do anything about the eventual cutting down of the trees, which form a green canopy over motorists traveling south of Cebu since it is part of a national road-widening project.
Also to be affected by the road-widening project was a 200-year-old coral stone house near the highway in barangay Langtad, Naga City owned by a retired sanitary inspector.
Mayor Apura said they will just coordinate with DWPH on how to take care of the trees that provide shade to motorists and serve as a “scenic icon” of Carcar town.
He said they could only ask the DPWH to have the trees carefully transferred somewhere else. / Jessa Chrisna Marie J. Agua, Correspondent