DPWH to pay for seedlings
THE remaining trees along the center island of S. Osmeña road in Cebu City will soon have a better chance of surviving.
It took one meeting for stakeholders to finally agree to proceed with earth-balling 20 remaining trees after a year-long limbo following the clandestine removal of 79 trees on the highway undergoing rehabilitation.
The agreement was reached in a meeting yesterday called by Cebu City Councilor Nida Cabrera with representatives from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) 7, Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) 7, its contractor WT Construction Inc. (WTCI) and the Cebu City Parks and Playgrounds Commission at her office.
“I wanted to do something and not just limit myself to giving a privilege speech in the city council’s session. That’s why I called the meeting,” Cabrera told reporters later.
DPWH 7 agreed to shoulder the P197,500 cost of purchasing 7,900 seedlings to replace the 79 trees that went missing in April last year.
The seedlings, priced at P25 each, will be bought from nurseries of People’s Organizations within Cebu City that are accredited by the DENR 7, like one in barangay Buhisan.
DPWH 7 was represented by the S. Osmena road concreting project engineer Roy dela Cruz. WTCI was represented by its project consultant Engr. Adolfo Quiroga.
The seedlings will be native species that include coffee, guyabano, atis, chicos, molave and narra.
Cabrera said coffee seedlings can be planted in barangays Adlaon and Guba where there are existing coffee plantations. The rest can be planted in the watershed areas in upland baranagys of Tabunan, Buot and Sirao.
Volunteers from DPWH personnel and the city government will replant the seedlings.
A Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) will be drafted by Cabrera’s office for signing by the different parties next week.
“I will talk with the mayor and I will also call the city legal office for them to prioritize giving a legal opinion on the MOA so I can already include it in the council’s agenda for its session next week,” she said.
The seedlings can be temporarily placed in the DENR’s nursery in Camp Marina in barangay Lahug.
“We hope DPWH will honor and comply with its commitment to replace the 79 (missing trees) with 7,900 seedlings of molave and other indigenous, said DENR 7 spokesman Eddie Llamedo.
“We will not lift the cease-and-desist order unless the 7,900 seedlings are delivered in Camp Marina. This means trees there (on S. Osmeña Road ) should remain ‘as is, where is’ unless we will be able to see the seedlings,” he added.
S. Osmeña Road is being ripped up and replaced with thick, concrete. The ongoing rehabilitation work, scheduled to finish on March 31, is causing severe traffic congestion in parts of North Reclamation Area in Cebu City and in Mandaue City.
Seedlings wll be kept in the nursery until the planting season starts when the rains come in the middle of the year.
Llamedo said they can’t immediately plant because it’s summer and the region is experiencing a mild El Niño.
DENR 7 was represented by foresters Raul Pasoc and Filemon Embalzado Jr. from its Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) Cebu City.
Once the cease and desist order is lifted by the DENR, Councilor Cabrera said they can start earth-balling the remaining 20 trees in the center island of S. Osmeña “hopefully after the Holy Week.”
With the summer heat and excavations disturbing the site, and concrete choking some of the roots, the trees – mostly fire trees – are in danger of dying.
The trees will be transferred to the Plaza Sugbo grounds fronting City Hall, Plaza Independencia and the senior citizens park.
The city government will be spearheading the ball-out of the trees with equipment support from DPWH and WTCI.
The Parks and Playgrounds Commission was represented by executive director Librado Macaraya Jr. and administrator Arlie Gesta.
Gesta earlier said the city has the manpower and expertise to do this.
In a privilege speech during the council’s regular session last March 11, Cabrera, who heads the committee on environment, appealed to the DENR to lift its cease-and-desist order since the trees were in danger of dying.
It was Cabrera who, almost a year ago, blew the whistle on the dramatic disappearance of what turned out to be 79 trees planted by the city government along S. Osmeña. They were uprooted at night time during or right after the celebration of Earth Day.
A criminal charge for illegal destruction of trees was filed by the DENR 7 against WT Construction but the case was later dismissed by the Cebu City Prosecutor’s Office which said there was a lack of evidence pinpointing blame on the contractor.
The DENR has filed a motion for reconsideration.
“The replacement (of trees) will not in any way affect the case we filed because this condition is clearly stated in the earth-ball permit we issued last March 24, 2014 to DPWH. This is mandatory,” said Llamedo.
For each tree cut or removed, the DPWH has to replant 100, according to the permit.
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