EARTHBALLING BRT TREES
The shade provided by the trees near her home in Barangay Kamputhaw, Cebu City, has made the summer heat bearable for 72-year-old Teresita Ruiz.
She said these trees were just the handful that remained from those that used to line the street near their house on Escario Street.
But these trees will have to go soon.
These are among the 2,182 trees that will be affected when the city government implements the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), a P10.6-billion project that aims to ease traffic congestion in the city.
The BRT spans 21.5 km from Barangay Bulacao in the south to Barangay Talamban in the north.
Environmentalists and residents raised concern about the fate of these trees.
“I can’t imagine once the trees here will be removed. It will become very hot. It may not be bearable anymore,” Ruiz lamented.
Former city councilor Nida Cabrera, environmental consultant of Mayor Tomas Osmeña, said 1,985 trees will be earthballed.
But the other 197 trees will be cut down because their rate for survival was low, she added.
There is a P15-million budget for the earthballing of these trees that will be taken from the P35-million allocation for the “green” component of the project that would be paid by the Department of Transportation and Communications and implemented by the Cebu City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CCENRO).
The allocation also includes the planting of 350,000 seedlings and saplings to replace the trees that would be cut.
Based on records of the CCENRO, most of the trees are narra trees (665) while the rest are Indian trees (486), fire trees (471), mahogany (203) and ipil-ipil (197).
The other species include caimito, kamatchile, talisay, gmelina, chico, balete or Indian rubber tree, jackfruit, sampaloc, mango, guava, acacia, avocado and cotton trees.
These trees have trunk diameter of 10 centimeters to 80 centimeters.
They are spread in 21 barangays where the BRT route will pass through.
These include Barangays Bulacao, Pardo, Mambaling, Sambag 1, Sambag 2, Capitol Site, Kamputhaw, Barrio Luz, Apas, Banilad and Talamban, among others.
These trees are standing either along the sidewalk or on center islands in N. Bacalso Ave., Osmeña Boulevard, Escario St. and the Banilad-Talamban (Bantal) Road.
Majority of the trees are located in the south district where many of the roads will be widened to accommodate the buses that will replace the jeepneys, said BRT Project Implementation Unit (PIU) head Rafael Yap.
Based on their inventory, a total of 238 trees on both sides of a portion of N. Bacalso Ave. — from Barangays Basak to Pardo — would be affected.
Also affected are 173 trees from Barangays San Nicolas to Mambaling portion of N. Bacalso Avenue and 61 trees, mostly Indian trees, on the center island.
The 134 trees that line from the Cebu Institute of Technology-University to the Development Bank of the Philippines at the corner of Osmeña Boulevard will also have to go.
It would not be the first time that the city had earthballed trees affected by development projects.
But this would be the first time that the number of trees affected would be of this magnitude.
According to the Cebu City Parks and Playgrounds Commission (CCPPC), trees that have been earth-balled remain healthy.
These are transplanted in Plaza Independencia, Senior Citizens Park, Magellan’s Park, Plaza Sugbo and Plaza Hamabar.
There are still a lot of areas in Cebu City that can accommodate the 2,000 trees, said Librado Macaraya, CCPPC executive director.
Based on his partial inventory, Macaraya said they would need at least 179 narra trees and 74 fire trees for different parks in the city, the sidewalks along S. Osmeña Road and along the North Reclamation Area (NRA).
The symbol of success of the city’s earthballing efforts can be seen in Plaza Independencia, according to former Cebu City agriculturist Joselito Baclayon.
He was referring to two century-old acacia trees that are inside the park. The trees have steel braces and poles for support.
“Those acacia trees were uprooted when they were excavating for the SRP tunnel in the 2000s. We were able to transfer the century-old trees to the Plaza Independencia, and they survived until today,” he said.
The city has also transferred several trees at the South Road Properties (SRP) as well as along the Cebu South Coastal Road and in the utility road near the University of Cebu campus in Barangay Mambaling.
Baclayon stressed the need for proper handling of the trees especially during transport to ensure the success of the earthballing efforts.
Even small cuts or wounds on a tree’s trunk may worsen the stress it goes through.
Trees that are deep-rooted are also difficult to transfer. Among these are jackfruit, duhat and auri trees, although only a couple of these are among the affected trees.
Narra, mahogany and fire trees are known to be more adaptable to being earthballed and will most likely survive the process.
Baclayon said at least P5,000 will be spent to earthball a tree with a diameter of 10 centimeters and P50,000 each for those trees with a diameter of 80 centimeters.
The amount already includes cost for labor, equipment, transport, manpower, growth hormones and fertilizers.
But if the diameter reaches more than 100 centimeters, the cost may reach at least P200,000 like what happened when a dita tree was transplanted in Rockwell, Makati City.
Dr. Armando Palijon, a professor in silviculture, arboriculture and urban forestry at the Institute of Renewable Natural Resources of the University of the Philippines Los Baños, said it was expensive because they had to hire heavy equipment like crane, backhoe, flatbed for transport, lorries and others, and tap skilled tree workers.
“Balling and transplanting activities are quite expensive but can be done successfully specifically if an Arborist or Urban Forester is engaged not only in the actual operations but more importantly on the tree assessment,” he told CDN in an e-mail interview.
An arborist is referred to as a “tree surgeon” while an urban forester is an expert engaged in the care and management of trees in urban settings.
Palijon said several concerns have to be looked into when earthballing.
These include the species of the trees and their suitability to balling and transplanting, sizes of the trees, age and health condition.
Palijon said that while environmentalists will claim that removal of the trees is detrimental to the environment, sometimes there is no other way to do it to improve the transport system.
But earthballing can be successful as long as done properly, he added.
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