BY ADRIAN P. NEMES III
Bacolod City District Engineer James Javellana said yesterday that the cutting of 26 century-old trees beside the old airport was necessary, adding that he welcomes the investigation launched by Mayor Evelio Leonardia and Rep. Greg Gasataya on the incident.
Javellana said it would be better for an investigation to be made so “they could walk the line and see for themselves why the Department of Public Works and Highways needed to cut those trees,” that he said poses danger to pedestrians and motorists alike.
He said that back in 2019, a vehicle parked near the office of the Philippine Airlines in the area was damaged when a tree trunk fell on it, adding that the pavements are already protruding because of the growing roots underneath.
Javellana added that the DPWH will repair the area where the trees used to be planted by constructing sheds for pedestrians and putting up street lights to illuminate the area.
Following the order of Leonardia Wednesday to stop the tree-cutting activities, and due to the flak they received from residents, the DPWH decided to spare the remaining nine trees.
Several environmentalist groups, concerned citizens, students, and teachers staged a silent protest yesterday at the old airport area to express their dismay over what the DPWH did. They wore black clothes to mourn what they called “the deaths of the trees”.
Javellana said the DPWH respects the protest and considers it a public feedback, but he stressed that it should have been better if those who opposed the tree-cutting expressed it during the public consultation held earlier.
The DPWH allocated P32 million for the improvement of pathways from the old airport to the Bacolod Public Plaza, and awarded the project to the AC Rivero Development Corporation.
Meanwhile, Councilor Carl Lopez, chairman of the Sangguniang Panlungsod Committee on Environment, said they passed a unanimous resolution Wednesday, asking the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office if the DPWH had committed a violation of the permit granted to the latter in the cutting of those trees.
Lopez said that, apparently, there is a provision that for every tree cut, at least 100 seedlings will be planted.
Aside from the trees beside the old airport, the DPWH also cut the trees beside the Alangilan-Granada road, also as part of the ongoing carriage improvement, shoulder paving project, and pathwalk project.
A letter submitted to the office of Leonardia dated October 26, 2020, a copy of which was obtained by the DAILY STAR, showed that former District Engineer Abraham Villareal informed the mayor that they will cut trees in barangays 16 and 34, too. The Social Action Center of the Bacolod Diocese, meanwhile, urged the city government, through the Sangguniang Panlungsod, to enact a resolution prohibiting the cutting of trees.*