TO CUT or not to cut the trees along the major roads in Naga City is an issue that divided the community after the Regional Trial Court Branch 27 issued a Temporary Environmental Protection Order on Aug. 8.
In fact, the Naga City government, as revealed by Councilor Salvador Del Castillo, is for the cutting of trees along the roads within the city. Del Castillo was even infuriated during the regular session on Tuesday after noting that some employees of the city government are one with an advocacy group “They Grey, We Green” that has been strongly vocal against the cutting of trees.
Mayor John Bongat is playing it safe without answering categorically his position on the issue even as Del Castillo himself explained that the city government, through a resolution they passed last year, had asked the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of Public Works and Highways to pursue with the tree-cutting to give way to the widening of major roads in the city.
What Bongat could say when asked about his position is that he would respect the Temporary Environmental Protection Order of Judge Leo L. Intia which effectively ordered to stop the cutting of trees along the roads until the main issue of the complaint against it had been resolved. The mayor did not confirm nor deny the official position of the city government that it wanted the trees cut along the roads.
For those who favor the cutting of trees along the roads argue that these trees are hazards to motorists and they must be cut to give way to wider roads. As experienced after every typhoon that visits the region, fallen trees and branches obstruct the roads which make it harder to responders to reach communities that needed immediate help. It took time to clear roads where trees grow abundantly. Others, including architects, say that trees are replaceable and may be grown again in places of less obstruction. Besides, they said, trees need to grow because they have to be cut for greater use while the younger ones will grow over time.
Old trees that are at least 40 years old along the roads were planted during the 70s when the beautification campaign had been at its peak under the initiative of then First Lady Imelda Marcos. Obviously, it had not been foreseen that trees would become obstructions when the roads would be needed to be widened.
For those who oppose the cutting of trees argue that the long-term benefits of living trees far outweigh the road development being presently undertaken. They argue that trees are vital to the life of all living organisms not only to man because they generate oxygen that we need and absorb carbon dioxide, the main cause of the rising global temperature. They say that an adult tree takes in 48 pounds of carbon dioxide per year but when cut releases 600 kilos of carbon dioxide.
The campaigners against the cutting of trees along the road do not buy the idea that wider roads can solve traffic congestion. They argue that wider roads, like the EDSA in Metro Manila, have not solved traffic congestion because more cars will use them. They believe that traffic congestion can be solved by discipline and proper law enforcement on the part of motorists and pedestrians to follow traffic rules and regulations and for authorities to strictly enforce them.
On the part of the national government amidst the situation where the cutting of trees along the road becomes inevitable, a joint memorandum circular was signed on July 3, 2014 between the DPWH, DENR and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
The core of the agreement is to plant 100 tree seedlings for every tree cut as a result of infrastructure development undertaken by the DPWH.
Essentially, the opposing positions over the fate of the trees along the roads boil down to the benefits or dangers the government action would bring to the community while implementing its infrastructure projects. The immediate effect of wide unobstructed roads may draw more people to support the tree-cutting along the roads but it must not be ignored that the long-term effects of tree-cutting on the environment are hinged on the survival of the only place where we live---the planet earth.