By Jose Santino S. Bunachita May 14,2017
EARTHBALLING/MAY 14,2017: The city government will earthball the affected trees along Osmena Blvd by the proposed BRT. (CDN PHOTO/TONEE DESPOJO)

EARTHBALLING/MAY 14,2017: The city government will earthball the affected trees along Osmena Blvd by the proposed BRT. (CDN PHOTO/TONEE DESPOJO)

Bus RaPid transit (BRT) Corridor

They may not be in the same spot anymore, but the over 2,000 trees that will be affected by the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project will continue to live.

Cebu City Hall’s point person on environment matters, former councilor Nida Cabrera, said the city will earthball majority, if not all, of the trees affected by the project.

As of now, she said the Cebu City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CCENRO) has only identified around 30 of the 2,166 trees that will have to be “harvested” or cut.

“We have a few trees that are subject for harvesting, like those mahogany and gmelina trees that are too big already. It’s not good if we earthball them.

We have to cut them. But those smaller ones will be included in the balling out,” Cabrera told Cebu Daily News on Sunday.

The rest of the 2,166, she said, will only be earthballed or, simply put, transferred to a different site with most of its roots kept intact.

She assured that the city has the capability and expertise to be able to safely transfer these trees and ensure that they survive.

Personnel from the Cebu City Parks and Playgrounds Commission and the City Agriculture Department will be the ones to supervise and do the earthballing, according to Cabrera.

The Cebu BRT project is a World Bank (WB)–funded P10-billion urban passenger transport system that will replace heavy-polluting public utility jeeps with buses to improve the city’s transport system, decongest roads, improve the level of service, safety and environmental efficiency, according to a WB abstract on the project.

It consists of six components that will include widening the streets in 21 barangays, starting from Barangay Bulacao all the way to Barangay Talamban, that will form part of the BRT corridor to make the roads suitable for buses and its terminals.

It is due to these street-widening projects that the trees now found along the affected routes, including those in Barangays Sambag I, Sambag II, Luz, Kamputhaw and Apas, will have to be taken out.

Stress-free transfer

The BRT Project Implementation Unit (PIU) will pay for the rental of the needed equipment for the transfer of the trees, initially along Osmeña Boulevard, where the first phase of the project is set to begin.

Among the heavy equipment needed by the city in order to earthball the trees are backhoes, cranes, dump trucks and pruning equipment.

“We will exhaust all efforts in order to revive the trees from the stress and impact it will go through when it is earthballed. We have the technology.

Although it will require time and effort, we will do that,” Cabrera assured.

Her statement came amid calls from several stakeholders, especially from environmental groups and advocates, to avoid sacrificing the trees for the BRT project.

Based on records from the CCENRO, the 2,166 trees that will be affected by the BRT project will be spread out in 21 urban barangays in the city.

There are close to 40 different kinds of trees that will be affected. But most of them are narra (665), Indian trees (486), fire trees (471), mahogany (203) and ipil-ipil (197).

The other tree species that are less than 20 each include caimito, kamatchile, talisay, gmelina, chico, balete or Indian rubber tree, jackfruit, sampaloc, mango, guava, acacia, avocado and cotton trees.


Based on tree-cutting guidelines from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), only trees whose trunks are 15 centimeters in diameter and below should be subjected to earthballing.

Trees with a trunk diameter of over 15 centimeters should be cut.

But even with this, Cabrera said the city will insist in earthballing majority of the trees and transferring them to other designated sites.

“Our first consideration is that these sites should be places wherein the trees will not have to be transferred again. We will also transfer some (trees) in our parks and open spaces,” she said.

In order to hear the side of more stakeholders, the BRT-PIU has scheduled a public hearing this coming Wednesday at the Rizal Public Library.

The city is expected to present its plans for the trees and will also be soliciting opinions, comments and suggestions from different sectors.

Adopt a tree

At the same time, the city government has launched a tree adoption program for interested individuals or groups that are willing to be the ones to transfer and take care of the trees that will have to be removed.

They will just need to submit a letter of intent to the CCENRO and a sketch of the site where they plan to transfer the trees.

Cabrera said staff from the CCENRO will then visit and inspect their proposed site to see if it is fit for replanting the trees.

“We do not have the budget to pay for the relocation of all 2,000 trees, so we need help from the private sector. If you really care about the trees, then here is an opportunity to put your money where your mouth is,” said Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña in a post on his Facebook account referring to the tree adoption program.

100 percent survival

Assistant City Agriculturist Arlie Gesta also backed Cabrera’s statement saying that the city has already experienced earthballing trees.

He said that during the previous administration, the city’s Parks and Playgrounds Commission was able to earthball several narra and fire trees species along S. Osmeña Road which were also affected by a road-concreting project.

Another road project that affected several narra and Indian trees near the Mambaling Flyover were also earthballed by the commission, said Gesta, who used to be the city’s Parks and Playgrounds administrator before he was reassigned to the Agriculture Department.

“We already experienced earthballing trees like the ones affected by the BRT project. So far, we have recorded 100 percent survival of those trees.

These were also mostly narra trees which are very adaptive and not sensitive,” Gesta told CDN.

Those trees were transferred in areas like the San Pedro Calungsod template site in the South Road Properties (SRP), in the Plaza Independencia and in the Senior Citizens Park near City Hall.

Gesta said the city Agriculture Department will continue to provide support in the earthballing of the trees to be affected by the BRT once it pushes through.

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