DENR 7: ‘Who would be liable if another tree falls’

“Who would be responsible if another tree falls down and incidentally claims a civilian’s life?”

Eduardo Inting of Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) 7 posed this question after a third party assessment contradicted their position.

But a plan to bring in tree pathologists popped up. This is hoped to give a final assessment on the condition of the old trees lining up in the national highway in the south.

A task group will be formed to determine the collective action plan involving the old trees.

The DENR 7 will host another meeting on Aug. 19 with the Capitol officials, Department of Public Works and Highways and Movement for Livable Cebu (MLC).

“During that meeting, we will plan another activity, maybe another assessment with a pathologist coming and the courses of action in the next few months,” said Inting, officer-in-charge and regional technical director of DENR’s Forest Management Service.

This developed as retired Professor and Isabela State University- College of Forestry Dean Dr. Roger Guzman presented his findings on his three-day independent assessment to the group last Aug. 15 at the Capitol.

Dr. Guzman, who was hired by the environmentalists to conduct their own party assessment on the identified diseased trees, failed to give a conclusive statement.

He recommended an in-depth study on the four trees along the national highway in the city of Naga and San Fernando town to be conducted by pathologists.

He said though that these trees can still live up to five years barring a strong typhoon.

Guzman is a forester but not an expert pathologist. It is only pathologist who has the authority to determine if the diseased trees are beyond healing.

However, he reiterated his initial findings that the other trees can still be saved with proper protection and maintenance. He also recommended surgical treatment on trees with hollowed trunks and pruning to tree branches leaning towards the street.

Of the hundreds of trees affected by the widening of road conducted by DPWH in the south, Inting said some of them are already beyond saving.

After the lengthy assessment made by DENR, he said the seven trees in Naga that they issued permit to be cut happened to be those trees that can no longer be saved.

Last Aug. 5, the DPWH started cutting the seven trees. But only four were cut after the environmentalists succeeded to stop the DPWH by climbing up the trees. Subsequently, DENR Secretary Ramon Paje ordered the revocation of all tree-cutting permits nationwide.

Meanwhile, while the Capitol is negotiating for Paje’s reconsideration, Inting said they go back to their hope that the trees will not yet fall.

Marc Canton of MLC said they would be all be liable now if there will be another casualty caused by a fallen tree.

Last month, the residents and road users in the south were alarmed when two century-old acacia trees in the south fell on their own.

DENR 7’s foresters found out that the trunks of the fallen trees were already decayed. DENR also claimed that acacia trees are susceptible to falling because it roots are mainly lateral, which can easily be affected if there is road improvement.