Capitol Site resident, netizens mourn loss of half-century old trees; chopped down for a road widening project
CEBU CITY, Philippines — Arjun Gilala, who has been living since birth in Barangay Capitol Site, Cebu City, watched mournfully as men from the Department of Public Works and Highways in Central Visayas (DPWH-7) began cutting the trees of his childhood.
The 47-years-old karenderia owner was chanced upon by CDN Digital during the tree-clearing operations of DPWH on Saturday, September 21, 2019, along Don Gil Garcia Street, where at least nine Mahogany trees were being cut.
Gilala told CDN Digital that the trees had been there even before he was born, and it provided a scenic shade for the area, which became iconic as he said it gave a “grander” view of the nearby Cebu Provincial Capitol.
He deeply mourned the loss of the trees, he said, as they withstood the test of time and of progress in the city as they remained lined up as some sort of an “island” that separate two sections of the road.
“Para nila samok kaayo ang mga kahoy. Para namo kanang mga kahoya ang nagpanindot niining lugara. (For them, the trees are a nuisance. For us, those trees make this place beautiful),” Gilala said, his eyes glistening with unshed tears.
A number of netizens shared Gilala’s sadness over the loss of the trees in comments posted on the CDN Digital Facebook page, and their own social media accounts. Some netizens, however, said the DPWH must have a reason why it was cutting of trees.
Gilala said the trees were at least 50 years old or even older as his father told him that the trees had been standing there since the start of the Second World War in 1941.
The trees that witnessed half a century of Cebuano history will stand no more.
The nine trees are among the more than 2,000 trees that DPWH was scheduled to cut for the road widening projects all over Metro Cebu, especially along the routes of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project in Cebu City.
In 2017, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Central Visayas (DENR-7) said they will be “earthballing” the affected trees so they can be replanted elsewhere.
However, a personnel of the DWPH-7 involved in the cutting of the trees in Don Gil Garcia Street on Saturday told CDN Digital that they were only instructed to cut the trees, not uproot them.
The DPWH-7 has been trying to get a permit to cut the trees from the DENR-7 since 2015, following a public backlash for cutting trees without permit. But in 2018, DENR eased its rules for cutting trees in roads to pave the way for DPWH projects.
A signage on Don Gil Garcia Street near the still to be chopped down trees showed that DPWH has managed to finally get a tree cutting permit from DENR-7.
Yet both DENR-7 and DPWH-7 seemed to have forgotten to inform Cebu City of their plan to cut the trees.
In a phone interview with CDN Digital on Saturday, Cebu City Environment and Natural Resources Office (Cenro) head Lawyer John Jigo Dacua said they were not informed of the cutting of the trees, despite their agreement with DENR-7 to be transparent about the tree cutting permits they would issue in the city.
Dacua said they asked DENR-7 to inform them of such activities, although they cannot stop it, so that the city government can prepare the residents in the area, and assess the importance of these trees to the locals.
“Niingon naman mi nila nga iinform mi if magputol na sila sa kahoy. Wala gyud mi na inform ani. (We already told them to coordinate with us when they start cutting the trees. We were not informed about this),” said Dacua.
CDN Digital sought the comment of DPWH-7 director Edgar Tabacon on Saturday and he sent this message via Facebook messenger: “FYI and understanding as the trees pose danger to the motorists. Thanks.”
Dacua said he will be coordinating with DENR-7 regarding the cutting of the trees and he will also look into where the trees will go after being cut.
The DPWH-7 expects to finish cutting the trees on Don Gil Street and M. Velez Street within the next few day.
The personnel, who refused to be named, said they were instructed to cut off the branches first before cutting the trunk. They only work up to 4 p.m., he said. /elb
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