Saved for now ... Provincial Environment and Natural Resources officer (Penro) of CamSur. lawyer Arnel Rodriguez, rejected the request of the Department of Public Works and Highways to cut these trees to give way for a four-lane road under a P100 million road-widening project. The regional executive director of the DENR has still to affirm or reverse the decision of the Penro. - Photo JUAN ESCANDOR, Jr.
By JOHN MARK ESCANDOR
NAGA CITY: In a memorandum dated July 15 this year, CamSur's top executive of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) saved 651 trees from being cut along more than seven kilometers of Maharlika Highway's planned P100- million road-widening project of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
DPWH has asked the DENR permission to cut the trees within 26-meter road right of way to implement the road-widening project the national office of the DPWH plans to start next year.
Lawyer Arnel Rodriguez, provincial environment and natural resources officer (Penro), sees the cutting of more than 600 trees "is not the proper solution on the issue of traffic congestion along the proposed project area".
Penro's decision has sealed, at the provincial level, the issue on whether or not to allow the DPWH to cut the trees along the project area, many of which are at least 50 years old.
"Instead of widening of Maharlika Highway that cost P100 million, the Almeda Highway which is a city road be converted into National Highway to widen such road," Rodriguez added. (Almeda Highway is a two-lane 4km city road that cuts across subdivision sites and converges with Maharlika Highway at the southeastern fringes of Naga City.)
DPWH's road-widening project is planned to convert the two-lane Maharlika Highway here to four lanes.
The memorandum was forwarded to acting DENR Regional Executive Director Gilbert C Gonzales, who has the option to affirm or reverse the decision of the Penro.
The cutting of trees along the proposed road widening project was earlier opposed by civil society groups, the city government of Naga City, and several members of the provincial board.
Rodriguez decided to save the trees after the conduct of consultation on July 8 between the DPWH representatives and opponents of tree-cutting.
"The cutting of trees is not an option as growing of trees took years and it just takes minutes to cut the trees.
"The Philippine government spent millions of pesos just to have a green environment, from the ordinary roadside tree planting, Luntiang Pilipinas and Green Philippine Highways," he iterated. (The Green Philippine Highways is a project of the DENR launched in August 2006 as a massive planting of trees along the country's three major highways including the Maharlika Highway or the 2,176-km. Pan Philippine Highway.)
Rodriguez weighed the functions and "services" the 651 trees provide to be more than the P100 million project costs covering 7.9 km. of road.
He enumerated the benefits of keeping the trees, including the production of oxygen, air-filter action, capacity to reduce heat, and absorb air pollutants.
"This office made a thorough discussion based on the presentation made by project proponent DPWH and opponents.
"We tried to weigh the effects and impacts of the project and the cutting of trees and come up with the categorical recommendations," Rodriguez concluded. - Bicol Mail