SAVE TREES OR EASE TRAFFIC?
Rama says island has to go; MLC suggests removing ‘only the tips’
Will center islands along Pope John Paul II Ave. — and trees on it – be removed or not?
Options are still being discussed to ease traffic in the busy road in front of the Mabolo Seminary Complex.
Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama yesterday said he wanted concrete islands on half the length of the national road removed.
In their place, temporary railings can be installed, he said. They can be removed during big events similar to what is done to adjust to crowds and traffic outside St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, he said.
“We need to remove the center islands on Pope John Paul II Avenue, but only those located on the stretch from Governor Cuenco Avenue to Cardinal Rosales Avenue,” he said at a press briefing in the soon-to-be-completed Pavilion for the January 2016 International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) to be hosted in Cebu City.
However, alternatives that don’t involve uprooting trees or removing islands are being urgently proposed by the Movement for a Livable Cebu and Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, whose representatives met with Rama Tuesday evening.
“We suggested PUJ rerouting for a short-term change,” said Marc Canton, MLC lead convenor.
For infrastructure, “we want only the tips of the center island near the choke points in the Ayala intersection and the flyover in Archbishop Reyes to be cut off,” said Canton.
“Our architects and engineers are submitting designs to effect this small, immediate change. The mayor will have final approval,” said Canton.
With this scheme, he said most of the trees along Pope John Paul II Ave. would be saved.
PLEA TO SAVE TREES
Rama’s plan to remove the center islands, announced last week, has stirred objections online, where a blog post circulating on Facebook appealed for him to spare the trees.
“Mr. Mayor, please do not cut these trees,” wrote Ka Bino Guerrero, a Cebu heritage advocate and tour guide, who said these were among the few trees that remain in Cebu city streets.
“The avenue itself speaks of humble dignity. Although not very wide, it is quite far from being heavily populated or polluted compared to others in the city. A vital link to various points of interest, this avenue’s charm comes mainly from a center island that hosts graceful fire trees,” said Guerrero.
“.. Besides, no amount of tree-cutting will ever compensate for good traffic planning and enforcement.”
Rama yesterday was still adamant that the center islands on half the road’s length had to go.
“Ï think everybody will agree with me that traffic in this area is tremendous. If we don’t address it now, then when and who will do it?” he said in the presence of church officials.
“Yes, some trees will be affected. But we do not cut or remove anything without the consent of concerned agencies.”
Rama was asked about the city’s traffic plan for the religious congress that will draw 15,000 foreign and local delegates to the IEC Pavilion in the seminary complex.
Right after the press conference, he walked outside to the road and inspected the length of the concrete island up to the Ayala junction.
By August 22, foreign delegates of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) will hold their first of a series of meetings in Cebu City.
Rama said he anticipates traffic “havoc” in the avenue during the APEC meetings and the religious congress in January.
Canton of MLC said they will join the mayor in an ocular inspection and walk through Pope John Paul II Avenue. They will do an inventory of the trees and come up with alternative designs with the help of architects, Canton said.
“Architect Joy Onozawa will do the drawings with help from Engr. Jun Sanchez (of Mega Cebu) and Lynn Madrona of the Cebu City Traffic Operations Management (Citom),” said Rudy Alix, an MLC core group member.
Onozawa attended the meeting together with MLC co-convenor Louella Alix and CCCI President Teresa Chan, among others.
Canton said the civil society groups came prepared with studies from MLC, the Mega Cebu team, CCCI, and Citom, as well as online comments.
They said PUJ rerouting is a short-term solution. Flared intersections are a medium-term answer.
For his part, Mayor Rama said he was thankful that MLC listened to his plans during the meeting in City Hall.
“They listened. They thought the whole avenue would be affected. But I told them only half,” Rama told reporters.
Rama said he would inspect the area with the civil society groups during rush hour to show them how traffic builds up there.
He flew to Manila last week to meet with officials from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) central to hasten the approval of permits for the cutting or earth-balling of trees in city roads.
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