By JOMARI ALEJANDRO III HERRERA
MANILA – Cebu-based progressive groups are set to continue their campaign protecting the century-old trees, following the decision of the local government to halt the cutting operations for a week.
University of the Philippines–Cebu Student Council Chairperson Aura Agbay said they will continue the petition to stop the cutting of trees. An online petition by Tinggog Kinaiyahan has reached nearly 20,000 signatures as of this writing.
The cutting operations are part of the Metro Cebu Expressway Project under the Build, Build, Build program of President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.
Last week, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of Public Works and Highways respective regional offices, along with the local governments of Carcar, Naga, and Cebu City, agreed to stop the cutting of trees for one week as agencies will conduct “reassessment.”
Since October 5, thirty-two trees were already cut down by personnel of the local government of Cebu with the approval of the Cebu Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) while 151 are set to be felled affecting the areas of Cebu, Talisay, Naga, and Carcar.
Agbay, who also heads Kabataan Partylist Cebu, pointed out that this is the right time to review Cebu’s environmental policies as government pushes the purported ASEAN-backed Mega Cebu Vision 2050.
Environmental lawyer Benjamin Cabrido has also filed a petition at the city’s appellate court to temporarily stop the operations.
At the House of Representatives, Kabataan Partylist Representative Sarah Elago filed House Resolution No. 436 urging the DPWH to stop the slaughter of the trees.
Groups claimed that the locality has jurisdiction over the trees as indicated in Republic Act 3571 or An Act Prohibiting the Cutting of Trees along Public Roads, in Plazas, Schools or Public Grounds. Several alternative studies have also been presented to the local government as cited in the petitions.
Apart from the issue of cutting of century-old trees in Carcar and Naga, Agbay said other environmental issues in Cebu are waiting to be discussed. Among these are the quarrying activities in Naga City that result in landslides, massive reclamations in Metro Cebu displacing fisherfolks, the Tañon Straits Protected Seascapes being opened for commercial fishing, and large-scale land conversion and malpractices.