Dying trees? DENR, citizens agree on pathologist, pruning

By: Victor Anthony V. Silva August 20,2014 - 09:50 AM

Are the three “condemned” Acacia trees in Naga city really decayed and dying?

Government foresters and a citizens group yesterday agreed to look for a tree pathologist to resolve this after the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) 7 stood by its recommendation to cut them down saying they may fall any time.

Four other century-old Acacias in Naga were felled by chainsaws last Aug. 5-7.

The clearing operation was suspended when Environment Secretary Ramon Paje withdrew all tree-cutting permits nationwide and required that full consultations be made and all options be explored before cutting down trees affected by road widening projects.

Members of the Movement for a Livable Cebu (MLC) yesterday pressed for a “neutral and non-DENR” pathologist to come to Cebu to assess the condition of the remaining roadside trees in Naga within the next two to three days.

In yesterday’s followup meeting at the Capitol, both sides discussed how to proceed with the moratorium.

The MLC and DENR 7 headed by Regional Technical Director for Forest Management Services Eduardo Inting agreed to come up with a list of potential tree pathologists to invite.

They also agreed on the need to train private contractors in proper pruning of trees and monitoring their health.

“Let’s just try to reach an agreement instead of shifting the blame from one department to another,” said Louela Alix of MLC.

She observed that the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and contractors were not pruning branches of trees properly.

Inting of the DENR 7 agreed that improper pruning may lead to a tree’s death by introducing diseases. Only 30 percent of the tree’s crown should be cut.

“Going beyond that will place too much stress on the tree and will lead to its eventual death,” he said.

Pruning is a skill that involves more than just chopping off excess branches, he said.

“After pruning, paint should be applied to prevent trees from catching any disease.”

Another 77 trees in San Fernando town are tagged for cutting by the DENR but Inting said these will be assessed again.

Inting defended the DENR’s assessment of the health of 155 various roadside trees affected by the DPWH widening of N. Bacalso Avenue in the Naga-Carcar section. He said it took them six months.

“We have well-trained foresters who conducted the assessment. But if you really want a pathologist to examine them, we can request for one from our mother office,” he said.

MLC’s Rudy Alix told reporters later the civil society group wanted “an independent opinion so that there will be no bias in terms of findings.”

Baltazar Tribunalo of the provincial disaster office said his office can shoulder travel expenses of the experts while an MLC member offered to house them.

The decision to look for a specialist in ailments and diseases of trees came after the visit last week of Dr. Roger Guzman, a forester with a PhD in silviculture, the study of the growth and health of standing trees and forests.

Guzman made a rapid assessment of the trees from Aug 13-15 and concluded that cutting was too drastic because the trees could be saved with proper pruning, trimming, tree surgery and mainenance.

During his briefing, the matter was raised of why a tree patholgist, another kind of expert, was not consulted by the government before DENR finally declared that 88 trees were “diseased and defective”.

Guzman, who was invited as a voluneer to give a third-party assessment, said the trees along the highway “pose a low risk to motorists and pedestrians as far as falling without external cause is concerned.”

DENR 7’s two officials yesterday repeated that trees as old as those along the highway in the south cannot heal faster than their rate of decay, and that it was futile to try to save them.

RTD for Ecosystem and Research Development Emma Melana welcomed the initiative of MLC to call for proper training for pruning and monitoring of roadside trees.

She said a province-level policy could require companies involved in tree-cutting to employ professional foresters or at least to undergo training.

“This is a good idea to ensure proper pruning shall be applied,” she said.

Inting proposed a 2-day workshop for local government units, civil society groups, electric companies and others involved in tree-cutting.

No final date was set but both MLC and the DENR welcomed the move.

Elvis Calunod of DPWH and Capitol officials were present.

However, there were no representatives from local governments of Naga, Carcar and San Fernando,whose mayors are angry about the delay in cutting.

Naga City Mayor Valdemar Chiong said that whoever opposes the tree cutting along the national highway should take the blame if another tree falls.

“The longer we take to cut these trees and the more responsibility is passed from one hand to another, the more risky it is for all of us,” he told Cebu Daily News.

Chiong said Naga residents want the trees cut already and worry they may fall on them. For now, all they can do is appeal because tree-cutting permits have all been recalled, he said.

Chiong said some mayors from the first district of Cebu want to sign a petition for Gov. Hilario Davide III to appeal to DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson.

San Fernando Mayor Antonio Canoy, on the other hand, said looking for another tree doctor to inspect the trees iin Naga was just “dilly-dallying.”

“This is absurd. An assessment has already been conducted and a recommendation has been made by DENR. I hope we won’t reach a point where we really have to sue,” he said.

Carcar City Mayor Nicepuro Apura said the DENR’s findings should have been respected as government authority.

“They (environment groups) only want a third-party assessment so they can be told that the trees shouldn’t be cut,” he told CDN over the phone.

Apura said he instructed Carcar residents to avoid walking directly under the old trees and watch out for those that could suddenly fall.

Read more Naga Trees issues here!

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TAGS: Acacia trees, DENR-7, DPWH-7, Naga trees

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