DENR, environmentalists to hire tree pathologist to settle issue

Environment officials and civil society group agreed to hire a pathologist to validate earlier assessments on the old acacia trees in the south.

“Anyway, pwede sila mokuhag (they can get) pathologist and then kung unsay (whatever the) finding sa pathologist we will go by it,” said Eduardo Inting, officer-in-charge regional technical director for forest management service of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) 7.

This developed as members of the Movement for Livable Cebu (MLC) continued to scorn the findings of Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) 7.

Louella Alix, MLC convenor, said they will prepare the list of pathologists to be chosen collectively in three days time so that they can proceed with the subsequent assessment right away.

The two groups met again last Aug. 19 at the Capitol.

Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office Chief Baltazar Tribunalo Jr. and Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office Chief Atty. Czareem Estella were also present during the meeting.

The DENR 7 officials reiterated their recommendation to cut at least the remaining three trees in the city of Naga. But MLC were quick to put the agency’s pronouncement on hold.

Inting’s statement came after the findings by forestry expert Dr. Roger Guzman, who was hired by environmentalist group Philippine Earth Justice Center to conduct an independent assessment, contradicted theirs.

Inting said they will not respect the recommendation of Guzman because he was not a tree pathologist.

A tree pathologist is a person who specializes on the study of biotic and abiotic problems affecting the health of the trees.

Emma Melana, DENR 7 director for ecosystem research and development sector, said they are confident of their methodology in assessing the century-old trees, which led them to recommend its cutting.

She also cited a research, which concludes that the lifespan of acacia trees would only be 80 to 100 years. She further said the agency never recommend tree surgery when the trunk of the tree is already above 50 centimeters (cm) in diameter. The trunks of the old trees in Naga have an average of 117 cm in diameter.

“The healing rate of the tree surgery is also very low,” she added.

Even Guzman had seen no problem with the assessment of DENR 7’s foresters. But instead of recommending the cutting of trees, Guzman recommended pruning, tree surgery and in-depth studies on four trees in Naga and San Fernando town.

The findings of Guzman however, were considered useful by DENR.

Once they get the final assessment of Guzman, Inting told the MLC to endorse it for action by government agencies.

For pruning of the trees, the Department of Public Works and Highways should endorse it first to DENR. The DENR Central Office then will issue a clearance.

During the meeting, Inting also invited the members of the MLC to undergo a workshop related to tree-assessment to avoid similar problem in the future.

“This is to come up with unified recommendation as to what to do with trees affected by road widening,” he said.