April 18, 2024

Councilors Mylen Victoria Yaranon and Betty Lourdes Tabanda questioned the necessity and justification for issuing emergency tree-cutting permits that led to the cutting of one palm tree and two pink shower trees along del Pilar St., the thoroughfare stretching from Kisad Road to Legarda Road.

The councilors sought clarification on why said trees were deemed hazardous and required immediate removal, especially considering the apparent longevity of these trees, without prior safety concerns. 

Construction activities have started along the street where the project involves the installation of a bike lane, integration of a bioretention system, and expansion of the sidewalk width, as part of the city government’s ongoing initiative to restore and enhance sidewalks within the central business district.

Engr. Richard Lardizabal of the City Engineering Office said the trees along Kisad Road had been cut because they posed a risk to public safety as they were obstructing the sidewalk and were deemed unsafe due to rotting and other issues. 

The joint investigation conducted by City Environment  and Parks Management Office (Cepmo) and City Environment and Natural Resources Office (Cenro) revealed the two pink shower trees were found to be standing precariously on elevated ground, positioned along the right of way and in close proximity to the parking area.

Moreover, the palm tree was observed leaning, with a securely fastened rope tethered to a nearby establishment’s post, preventing it from collapsing. It was found that the trees were situated on ground characterized by its weakness and instability, making the area unsafe for people and vehicles passing through.

Katlyn Felipe of the Cenro-Baguio said they had also conducted an inspection of the trees in question. Based on their inspection, she said these trees posed public danger due to their rotten condition.

An emergency tree-cutting permit was issued in December 2023.

Sitting as the chairperson of the city council’s committee on health and sanitation, ecology, and environmental protection, Tabanda questioned whether these cut trees posed immediate danger to the public or if the permit was issued due to the ongoing infrastructure project.

“How can it be deemed an emergency when it has been existing for such a long time? Isn’t it due to the project that you had to cut down the tree?” Tabanda said.

She expressed disappointment in what appeared to be a deviation from the expected commitment to tree conservation by Cenro and Cepmo, criticizing the perceived inconsistency between the city’s emphasis on biodiversity and its decision to cut down existing trees.

She said efforts should be made to preserve mature trees.

“I am somewhat disappointed to hear that sort of statement from Cenro and Cepmo because, all along, we believed you were committed to tree conservation. It’s a bit concerning,” she stated.

Lardizabal said the project originally involved supporting trees as part of the sidewalk design to promote biodiversity and contribute to the development of a Smart City.

However, they found that the trees were no longer safe and posed a threat to public safety.

He added the decision to cut down trees was necessary due to safety concerns. – Jordan G. Habbiling