About those trees and Ma’am Gina’s exit

By: Stephen D. Capillas May 04,2017 - 10:36 PM
CAPILLAS

CAPILLAS

It remains to be seen whether we’ll see any sort of public opposition to plans by the Cebu City government to cut down over 2,000 trees found along the route of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project.

During the previous administration, there were groups like the Movement for a Livable Cebu (MLC) that were active in opposing projects that were either seen to disturb communities — like the proposed flyover project near the Asilo Milagrosa Church and development of the Ili Rock project in Boljoon town — or damage the environment (the century-old trees that lined up along the Naga-Carcar City highway widening project).

With a different mayor seated in Cebu City Hall, I don’t know if these groups will publicly oppose the cutting of trees, a lot of which are a century old, let alone be vocal in expressing their sentiments against it.

In a TV interview, Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña bluntly told a reporter that he doesn’t want to spend for the earth-balling of the trees, reasoning that the money can be used to fund the replanting of trees instead.

This is contrary to the assurance given by City Hall environmental consultant Nida Cabrera who said some of the trees will be earthballed and placed in some tree nurseries.

Since it’s the national government through the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) that will fund the project, it’s probably not up to the mayor to decide whether the trees will be earth-balled or not.

As to whether the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will have a say on this, it will likely be determined through a public hearing on the issue scheduled on May 17, or so the BRT project management office said.

If what the mayor says about the project, at least in relation to the trees, goes, then there is practically no use for the public hearing on the issue unless it’s only for show and compliance with project requirements.

I’m not a hard-core, tree-hugging environmentalist, but after giving shade to lots of city residents and otherwise beautifying Osmeña Boulevard, one would think that these trees deserve something better than just being uprooted, cut down and then left to die — yes, they are living things — or else chopped up and sold as wood by some lucky loggers.

True, while there is perhaps zero public opposition to the BRT project — and the mayor said he will not tolerate any opposition to it — surely city officials can do a better job, nay even do their best to preserve the over 2,000 trees lined up along the BRT route rather than just indiscriminately cut them up. If Environment Secretary Gina Lopez had her way, the trees would be earth-balled. But then again, she’s no longer with the DENR.

* * *

Speaking of Gina Lopez, a lot of netizens voiced their outrage over her rejection by the Commission on Appointments (CA) last Wednesday and even launched a hashtag petition to President Rodrigo Duterte to reappoint her to the agency or to a similar position.

Would President Duterte take the helm of the DENR as what Lopez recommended after an emotional outburst following her rejection at the CA?

If the President does take the DENR portfolio, I reckon he may simply require all mining firms to comply with existing laws on mining — he did say that he wants illegal logging and mining “stopped” — though he may go down harder on them than Lopez did.

As to the suspicion that Duterte appointed Lopez only to let her fall, well that’s Palace politics for you. But the President may reportedly be able to appoint Lopez in some other capacity, which means she may cross swords with her replacement at the DENR and she can do it without being hassled by the CA.

What I do remember about Lopez, aside from her brief and interrupted crusade against large-scale mining operations, was her firm decision to support the permanent closure of the Inayawan landfill in Cebu City following her visit and inspection of the site.

With Lopez gone and the Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan (BO-PK) bloc getting the numbers, perhaps they will succeed in going around the Court of Appeals (CA) order not to reopen the landfill/dumpsite by proposing a transfer station instead.

City Hall figured that it’s cheaper to spend more to deodorize the dumpsite than to actually find a long-term solution to the city’s garbage problem.

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