To cut trees or not on Sagada road project

>> Sunday, June 5, 2016

By Gina Dizon

SAGADA MOUNTAIN PROVINCE- The fate of matured trees here found in a road widening project as to whether  these shall be cut or not reached an understanding among folks here that some shall be felled and some retained considering recommendations of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Following a third congregational assembly  of the Church of St Mary the Virgin (CSMV) last Sunday on the  road widening project worked on by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) participants  forwarded their favorable action on leaving  “islands of  trees” near the sidewalk of the sloping Makamkamlis road.
Proposed tree islands are meant  to retain some trees  and include construction of concrete benches to serve as breather points where passersby stop to catch some air or enjoy the cool breeze in a section of this pine tree clad greenbelt of the tourist town.
DPWH initially targeted the cutting of 18 trees along the stretch of the proposed 400 meter long road widening project at sitio Nangonogan of the Poblacion area along the Dantay-Sagada national road.
Following inspection last April by a composite team from the DENR, DPWH, municipal government and the CSMV, reports  recommend  the cutting of 12 trees- 9 pine and 3 alnus - due to defective, diseased root systems and  over maturity.
Located within the private property of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Philippines a permit to enter (PTE)  was issued by Diocesan  Bishop  Brent Alawas  to “ allow the DPWH its duly  authorized  representative,  assignees  and contractors to enter, conduct and undertake, occupy said parcel of land and do required  construction activities  in connection with the  project”.
The PTE  issued 27th of November 2015  informed the DPWH-MPDEO take into consideration suggestions of the vestry of CSMV  in the implementation of said project.
Road widening and concreting, construction of retaining walls and drainages, installation of warning devises, and placement of flower boxes along the sidewalks was  introduced during the assembly’s first consultation November last year..
The November 23  consultation was participated in by the congregation of  CSMV with the presence of  district  engineer Wilbur Likigan of the Mountain Province District Engineering  Office (MPDEO)-DPWH who presented the technical descriptions and the layout of the project in PowerPoint. An obvious disappearance of trees was noted in the shown project design with no tree obstruction seen along the road.
Concreting and road widening of the 12 million peso infrastructure project funded from the regular funds of DPWH constructs an additional 3 meter width and more on the whole stretch of the road near the Omaweng residence to the curve before it reaches St Theodore’s Hospital.
A major concern asked during said consultation was the query  if the road was  designed to be a parking lot  to cater to tourists.  DPWH rules basically prohibits the use of a national road for parking thus the widening is not for parking purposes. Though in a tourist visited Sagada where parking space is a crucial need, the widened road practically  becomes one as noted by CSMV curate Fr Charles Buking.
In a dominant pulse, participants to the consultation saw the project in the light of repair of bad drainages and addressing critical portions of the road. Opposing was not an option.
Participants forwarded that drainage was a problem such that during heavy rains, waters  from the KenGedeng canal find their way flowing towards the road.  
It was noted that the century-old culvert located under the road and above the old powerhouse of the hospital be replaced so water shall flow here instead.
An eroding parapet above the culvert also need repair and improvement  of the existing drainage near the former Department of Agriculture  office.
The November consultation pointed out addressing the narrow section of the accident prone road near Sagada Weaving. Two separate vehicular accidents happened on this side of the road with both vehicles-a public utility jeep and a motorcycle-in trying to evade an approaching vehicle swerved down the sayote patch some 20 feet below.
Installation of hand rails along the sidewalk to the Centrum commercial building was also forwarded by  folks here  in consideration of the project  to be of  functional and beneficial use to the community.
Questioning the cutting of trees came early months of 2016.
A special congregational assembly March 18  with the presence of  DPWH representative engineer Ronald Matias and DENR forester Christopher Bosaing eventually let the body decide  that  construction activities- widening, riprapping, slope protection and drainage repairs-  shall proceed on both ends of the road sections of the project except the middle part where the trees are located.
Whether trees shall be cut or not  was a major issue discussed during the March 18 consultation. DPWH targeted 18 trees to be cut within the proposed road.   
On this part of the national road where walking is a pleasure with the feel of soft breeze fanned by a rich blanket of pine needles, cutting of trees is an unnerving  discomfort.
Others expressed the need to cut trees as these present obstruction to motorists thereby posing danger to drivers, passengers and passersby. 
It was noted that some trees are over matured for harvesting while some have  protruding root systems due to earlier earth movements.
Forester Christopher  Bosaing  of the DENR said it would be  dangerous to keep a tree standing where roots are already cut off.
The  vestry urged Sagada-based organizations to submit their position papers relative to the cutting or non-cutting of trees on or before first week of April.
The Episcopal Church Women (ECW) in their position paper wanted  to save all trees while the  Sagada Arabica Coffee Growers Association who have their shop nearby the road and the Nangonogan residents group opted for selective cutting.
Nangonogan resident and former mayor Thomas Killip  with Nangonogan-based  Montanosa Research and Development Center (MRDC)  wanted to retain  ‘islands of trees’ along the projected road. 
An ocular inspection followed to note how many trees shall be cut or not and where the  tree islands shall be located  in reference to the composite team’s recommendations.
As of press time, a tree cutting permit is applied for at DENR based on the DENR-DPWH-LGU-CSMV inspection report among other requirements.
Meantime it was learned that some individuals in town who are also members of the congregation of  CSMV forwarded an application for a Temporary  Restraining Order(TRO) to the regional office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP stopping the project  due to alleged lack of  free prior and informed consent (FPIC). NCIP dismissed said case due to lack of jurisdiction.


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