Forestry Expert retired Professor Dr. Roger Guzman refused to recommend the cutting of trees in Naga City, south of Cebu.
This, he said, despite finding the assessment of Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) foresters in order and scientific.
“I have nothing to say about their procedures, which was used as the basis for recommending which trees have to be cut and which trees should be remained,” he said.
But in terms of deciding whether which trees should be cut, there are a lot of considerations to look into, Guzman added.
First, he said, DENR should consider the degree of risks the trees posed to residents and road users; second, the environmental value of trees, their cooling and shading functions, and biodiversity; and third, the possibility of recovery of the trees.
He further stated that they should also consider the historical value of the trees since some of these are already considered heritage trees.
For the trees with branches that are already leaning towards the national highway, Guzman recommended pruning.
He said the trees that are recommended for cutting can still recover provided they are afforded protection from abuse. He assessed that these trees can still survive for 20, 40 or even 50 years.
Guzman also said that the DENR should uphold its mandate to preserve the trees and forests instead of recommending them to be cut.
“Let us show the public that we are concerned in protecting the trees and forests rather than recommending for their cutting,” said Guzman who also served as executive director of Philippine Federation of Environmental Concern.
DENR 7 Forrester Filimon Embelzado Jr. said if they recommended the tree-cutting, it does not mean they are sleeping on their mandate.
He admitted to Guzman that they were pressured to recommend the cutting on the trees because of the clamor of the locals.
He said they were also alarmed with the latest incidents when two old trees fell down even when there is no threat of strong winds and heavy rain.
He cited the fallen tree in Perrelos, Carcar City that just fell down with no signs of decay in its outer appearance. But when they inspected the tree, the trunk is already rotten.
But Guzman answered that it does not follow when one, two or three fell down, all the trees lining up in the national highway are all in the same state.
Guzman was hired by environmentalists to conduct the third party assessment while the tree-cutting was suspended.
Guzman, who admitted that he was also an environmentalist, will continue his own assessment with DENR’s foresters on the trees in San Fernando and Carcar City.
On Friday, he will report his findings to the Cebu Provincial Government and DENR.
The mayors in the south are planning to compel DENR to resume the cutting of trees upon a court order. The bus operators in the south are also pushing for the tree-cutting of old trees, which they feared to collapse anytime for its rotten state.
While Guzman’s assessment was ongoing in Naga, a commuter on board of multicab shouted boo. Another person appeared to a bus commuter or a bus helper also shouted, “Putla na na (Cut it).”
For the residents, who favored the cutting of the trees, Guzman said, they may petition the DENR to allow the cutting of the trees. “Lahat naman may due process eh (There is due process in everything),” he said.
DENR already started its assessment on the trees last 2012. Following the subsequent falling of the century-old trees, DENR issued special permit for the sanitary cutting of the trees last July.
The actual cutting of the old trees in Naga started in last Aug. 5, involving seven of the 154 trees recommended for cutting. But this was halted due to the protest of the environmentalists.
DENR Secretary Ramon then revoked and denied all requests for special tree cutting permits nationwide last Aug. 8.
Of the seven trees permitted by DENR to be cut, only four were successfully torn down while three were pruned.
In his press statement, Montejo said “Paje’s directive also requires the concerned DPWH regional directors or district engineers to course through all their applications for tree cutting to DPWH Secretary for vetting.”
He added, “The DENR will not accept or process tree cutting applications without vetting process or even clearance to be issued by the DPWH Secretary.”