Spare the trees as much as possible – Singson
As much as possible, spare the trees.
That’s coming from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the agency heavily criticized for the cutting of trees to make way for the road widening of the national highways.
DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson made the statement in a recent forum on “Save a TREE, save our counTREE” held at Miriam College in Quezon City.
The DPWH has been criticized by environmentalists for cutting trees, some of them century-old trees, for road widening and infrastructure development projects in the country.
WHEN TREES ARE CUT
Singson admitted, though, that in most cases “tree-cutting happens in implementing a national road specification for public safety reasons.”
“We try as much as we can to work within the parameters of the law. There’s an executive order that stops tree cutting except for road right-of-way requirements. It is a decision of bringing development and affecting houses rather than trees,” he pointed out.
Singson referred to the Executive Order (EO) 23 that was issued in February 1, 2011. The EO bans the cutting and harvesting of timber in the natural and residual forests, except for the clearing of road right-of-way by the DPWH.
He assured that the agency is trying to follow the rules by applying for tree-cutting permits with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). It also complies with the DENR requirement of planting 100 trees, three-feet in height, for every tree that is cut.
To implement better quality roads and bridges, we end up cutting trees. We try our very best to avoid cutting trees but sometimes they are really just unavoidable. I fully realize that we have contractors who in their desire to finish projects, do not go through proper processes of seeking local permits from concerned LGUs (local government units) and with DENR for the cutting of trees. We have many instances that we tried our best to work around, Singson said.
Singson noted the difficulty presented when the community’s decision clashes with that of the non-government organizations (NGO).
“The communities are willing, allowing their trees to be cut but other NGOs would rather that we do not. This is where the conflict lies. Legally, road right-of-way should have no obstructions at all and these include not just trees but utility poles as well,” he added.
He cited the case of the development of the Pampanga-Manila north road where the conflict could result in a crooked road.
“We talked to the community and when we saw that the trees were more or less aligned properly, we tried to avoid them. We extended the road up to the tree line. But we told them there are trees that were off alignment. The contractor allowed the cutting of trees for safety reason. It is not right if just leave the roads crooked,” Singson explained.
“Another case is in the Sison-Villasis, that project has been pending for two years now. Mag eexpire na yung pera ng kalye dun. The politicians, as well as the local community have been asking for a road widening in that area. I’m caught between NGOs saying not to cut the trees and the local community who want to cut the trees. Up to now the project is pending. I said don’t cut anymore trees just widen the road up to the extent of the tree line, he said drawing applause from the forum participants led by the Citizens Concerned with Advocating Philippine Environmental Sustainability (COCAP).
“There was also another instance in Sorsogon. When I called our people there, my specific instruction was do not cut any more trees, just widen up to the extent of the tree line. That is the most that we can do,” he added.
The DPWH chief meanwhile denied clearing the Santo Tomas-Baguio road of trees, leading to the watershed in Santo Tomas. They said we were the ones who cut the trees but we can assure you that we just paved the road leading to Santo Tomas.
‘BALLING’ SURVIVAL RATE
In the same forum, DENR Secretary Ramon Paje explained that the DENR’s requirement has been “not to cut but as much as possible to ball.”
But then “balling has a very low survival rate,” he explained.
“Let me tell you as a forester, balling a tree has a very low survival rate. Kapag ang puno lumagpas ng 16 centimeters in diameter, survival rate nyan di lumalagpas ng 20 percent. The right way of balling a tree is you have to remove the soil around the roots equivalent to the size of the tree crown. There is no balling equipment capable to do that. We still allow balling but the chance to survive is minimal,” he explained.
“I believe that we must plan correctly in urban developments. Things should be studied carefully,” he added.