As I See It

Please don’t cut trees; plant them


Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile’s resignation as Senate President was a surprise even to his closest allies, Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Tito Sotto. The best thing in JPE’s privilege speech that day was not the resignation itself but his call for a transparent audit of Senate finances.

Enrile said his irrevocable resignation was intended to make it very clear that he wants all senators, himself included, to be put under a microscopic scrutiny on how they utilized their fund allocations.

There were those who dismissed Enrile’s resignation as an empty gesture because it came on the second to the last day of the 15th Congress. As I see it, however, his resignation was such an important precedent that it should henceforth be the standard practice in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Senators and congressmen will be much more cautious in using their fund allocations if at the end of each Congress they know that a full and transparent audit is coming. I believe that by resigning, Enrile raised the bar of public accountability.

The puzzler in all of this is that those senators who have been asking for Enrile’s head by raising a howl over his disbursement of Senate funds to individual senators are now the ones who seem to be opposing a full-blown audit of the utilization of Senate funds.

Why are some senators moving heaven and earth to prevent such an audit? Why, indeed? Are they afraid that the Senate funds that they received will be found to have been diverted to buy pricey mansions in expensive addresses?

Who among the senators are afraid of the transparent audit Enrile has pushed by resigning? Let’s look at the noisy ones in the Senate to determine who they are.

As Senate President, JPE repeatedly stressed that he would be able to account for every centavo that his office had disbursed. This is something that many of his colleagues may find difficult to do because they have merely issued certifications on how their allocations were used.

For ordinary citizens and taxpayers, the real issue is what happens to the funds disbursed by the Office of the Senate President to the individual senators. After all, the end-users of the funds—in this case the individual senators—are the ones who should account for the money.

As Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago once said, “Ang sarap maging senador (It’s nice to be a senator).” Maybe not anymore, if the transparent liquidation and audit of Senate funds that Enrile called for is institutionalized.

In his speech, Enrile said he and Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chair of the committee on accounts, had taken “the position that if we (senators and congressmen) were to be sensitive to the public pulse and with the agreement of both houses of Congress, we should revert back to the old system of liquidation and accounting for each centavo of public money entrusted to us.”

To that statement of Enrile, I say: By all means, let’s return to the old system and refuse to vote back into office any senator or congressman who will refuse to properly liquidate taxpayer money.

Pay special attention to the pork barrel, which is deodorized as the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). Some contractors claim that some legislators demand at least 30-percent kickback on projects. Include the bribe money given to engineers, treasurers, cashiers, local government officials, etc., and the loss can easily go up to 50 percent or more. That is why we have substandard public works projects: The contractors have to finish the projects with what is left to them after paying off government officials.

The PDAF amounts to several billions of pesos every year. Half of that is lost to corruption. Imagine how that lost fund could have contributed to improving the lives of all Filipinos—in terms of housing for the homeless, for example, or creating jobs for the jobless.

* * *

A reader, Moises Norman Z. Garcia, a professor at the University of Santo Tomas, reported in a letter that 350 mature trees along Lacson (formerly Governor Forbes) Avenue will be cut by the Department of Public Works and Highways to give way to an underpass intended to ease traffic at the intersection of España and Lacson avenues. According to Garcia, the loss to the environment far outweighs the benefits of an underpass there. Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and provide oxygen, filter the pollutants from the air, and serve as shelter from the heat of the sun. Trees also moderate the hot microclimate in the urban jungle that Metro Manila has become.

“The cooling effect of a single tree is equivalent to 20 air conditioners,” Garcia said. Imagine how much electricity we would all save simply by planting more trees.

And why an underpass? Why not a flyover, which would require less excavation and therefore save the trees?

The DPWH (and the Metro Manila Development Authority) are quick to cut trees as it is the easy way to do things. We should plant more trees instead of cutting them. We have a National Greening Program that aims to plant 1.5 million trees. But here is the DPWH cutting grown trees instead.

* * *

KAPIHAN NOTES: In celebration of Father’s Day on Sunday, the Kapihan sa Manila at the Diamond Hotel will have as guests two sets of prominent fathers and sons: JPE and JPE Jr. (aka Jackie Enrile) and Rep. Rodolfo Biazon and Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon.

Next week we hope to have Manila Mayor-elect Joseph Estrada and his two feuding sons: Sen. Jinggoy Estrada and Senator-elect JV Ejercito Estrada.

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  • perpetual7

    This write up bannered by “Please don’t cut trees; plant them” was immediately succeeded and begun with “Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile’s resignation…” could had been enough.

    And if there is something to add is – do it in massive tree planting. That in the twilight of his career and moreso, in the twilight of his life he can make amends for the massive deforestation and the harms he had caused the nation because of his greed.

  • mad_as_Hamlet

    * * * * * * *

    To keep on cutting trees in an already hellish place is the height of satanic and diabolic deviltry that can only be an infernal influence from the Evil One who rules the House of Hades. I hope these people and their progeny start growing tails. Let’s see what they’ll miss and let’s watch them swing from concrete to concrete. That should be the appropriate punishment for them.
    – – -

    • cogito728sum

      Mi amici, as long as their reverse evolutionary process stops at the monkey stage and not extend to the gracious, agile, and lovable squirrels, that would be very fine by me. They can apply this reverse evolution to all their progenies and dynasties and I don’t think there would be any complaint from anyone. The longest they grow their tails and accompany them with horns on their heads, the easier for us to identify these disciples of the ruler of Hades.
      Incidentally enough, when I visited my daughter in the nation’s capital, Ottawa, last year, it was not the grandeur of the Can. Parliament that impressed me even if it was my second visit. Rather it was the variety of magnificent trees that line the avenues and streets. I even pointed to my wife what looked to me to be an acacia tree, though I find it suspect considering the cold that envelops this country during winter.
      But comes spring, nature displays its stunning beauty in the trees that come to life again after their winter hibernation. The summer heat that culminates in the months of July and August is greatly mitigated by the shades that these friendly trees provide. This seasonal gorgeous transformation is repeated and magnified in the fall in the sense of the change in the colouration of the foliage as fall progresses. It is during this season that the poignancy of the line “the autumn leaves of red and gold” is deeply felt. The main provider of this awesome work of trees is the maple tree from which the maple leaf in our national colour is proudly embossed. It is also the source of that pride of the province of Quebec, the world renown Maple Syrup.
      However, as winter comes, especially in the prairies, these friendly trees lose their leaves again and make them skeletal in appearance. But don’t despair in this deceiving appearance of loss of life because it is but temporal, not permanent. It is but a part of the cycle in which we are all part. Besides these skeletal remains of active life in summer provide winter of its chance to showcase its own unique beauty when, as if in competition with spring and fall, it covers the twigs with icicles whose irresistible majesty only a tree hater, like Manong J. perhaps, could ignore.
      One of the questions I raised against myself this morning after viewing a magnificent sequoia that must be about a millennium years old is: “Are we the only specie entitled to enjoy this planet?” Indeed why unnecessarily, unjustifiably cut the trees? Why? Merci!

  • aspirin200

    The choice between urban infrastructure development and environmental protection is often a dilemma. Its almost the same problem faced in forest clearing to make way for agricultural expansion.

    But here is always a compromise but would require a lot of expertise and good planning.

    In tree planting, the current practice is to plant month old seedlings that may be suitable for planting in large open spaces but unsuited for urban aforestation.

    Further, our existing plant nurseries are inadequately funded and ill equipped. These facilities do not have basic soil treatment equipment and hardening beds that seedlings produced which are directly planted on plastic seedling bags develop J roots that result in low survival rates and stunted growth.

    We have not yet develop a technique in planting trees in urban environment that assures quick adaptability and faster growth.

    Hereunder are some recommendations:

    1. Establish tree nurseries exclusively for urban aforestation, one that is large enough to have ample space for proper hardening and ageing of seedlings;

    2. Raise only dense canopy, deep rooted and broad-leaf evergreen species such as narra and large leaf mahogany as these not only provide good shade, sheds leaves only once a year during the summer and the falling leaves are also easier to gather and dispose and will not easily enter and clog drainage systems;

    3. Plant only seedlings that are at least 2 to 3 years old or older or those that have already achieved a height of at least 10 feet so they won’t be trampled upon and to minimize branches and leaves to be constantly disturbed by passing pedestrian traffic, assuring faster establishment and growth;

    4. In urban dumpsites, establish composting facilities that will produce organic fertilizer to used in nursery and in outplanting;

    4. Establish tree planting teams, each one equipped with tools and equipment such as a small truck mounted excavator, small water tank truck, compost carrier, seedling carrier, and about 10 trained tree planting personnel. Three properly equipped teams per city in Metro Manila undertaking tree planting whole year round should do the job in five years (100 seedlings per day x 3 teams x 16 cities x 320 days = 1,536,600 trees per year at 90% survival rate x 5 years = 6.9 million trees).


    Nursery (excluding land) Php15.0M
    Truck Mounted Excavator x 3 10.0M
    Tank Truck x 3 6.0M
    Composting Facility 5.0M
    Compost Carrier x 3 6.0M
    Seedling Carrier x 3 6.0M
    Tools x 3 3.0M
    Establishment Cost Php 51.0 Million x 16 Cities = P816 Million

    Annual Recurring Cost

    Nursery MOE 5.0M
    Composting Facility MOE 3.0M
    FOL/Maintenance/utilities x3 9.0M
    Tree planting Personnel x3 9.0M
    Annual Recurring Cost per City Php 26.0 Million x 16 Cities = P416 Million

    Total Cost for 5 years = Php 2.9 Billion

    If this can be done, there will be minimal resistance in cutting down trees to make way for necessary urban infrastructure and the total 5 year cost is only 10% of one year’s worth of CCT. The annual recurring cost is only 1/3 of a congressman’s PDAF even assuming that a city only has only one congressman.

  • WeAry_Bat

    As mentioned in the last paragraph, the Kapihan on Sunday will be hosting prominent people. They happen to have had the attention of commentators.

    Does the fruit fall far from the tree? would be a nice title to the event.

    I hope to read of what transpires.

  • themask celestial

    When Lito Atienza was the Mayor of Manila, the trees that was planted on Marcos Road between Moriones and Zaragoza St. facing the wall of North harbor were mysteriously removed for no reason. It was the project of mayor lito atienza. I think it just transferred to another new project of City Hell and claimed the trees as newly bought, like what the happened to the benches- which are only good, weeks after a new park was inagurated. Later, it would be transfer to a new park. I tried to write the City Hall about and never acted. Too bad wala pang facebook noon.

  • josh_alexei

    There is unrest in the forest,

    There is trouble with the trees,

    For the maples want more sunlight

    And the oaks ignore their pleas.

    So the maples formed a union

    And demanded equal rights.

    “The oaks are just too greedy;

    We will make them give us light.”

    Now there’s no more oak oppression,

    For they passed a noble law,

    And the trees are all kept equal

    By hatchet, axe, and saw.

    the Tree… a song by Sting..and who did passed the Noble Law..Enrile you say?

    • cogito728sum

      Beautiful poem, thanks for sharing it with us. Merci Beaucoup!

    • cogito728sum

      I decided to read this poem a second time with the thought of really savouring its beauty but I ended up cursing myself for failing to grasp the meaning of the last line. What a dumb me indeed. This last line was what actually kept me mentally perturbed and emotionally drained overnight constantly thinking of that magnificent sequoia which is just waiting for the developer’s “hatchet, axe, and saw” to fall so that another multiple housing project, to shield from the elements the most rapacious specie that ever lived, could take its place in the space nature provided for it.
      If the equality the only thinking animal on this planet could provide other living things such as these magnificent trees is by exterminating them, then this planet, the only verdant and blue in the whole solar system, would be much better off without humans. Ah Mr. Spock, you’re right indeed, absolutely right by asking “who said that humans are rational?” Merci!

      • josh_alexei

        REad the full lyric by searching the whole song just look for the was I believe composed and perform by Sting…I just copied and pasted the First and the Last stanzas of the Lyrics…it was a beautiful poem set to a beautiful music by a Great Performer…
        Indeed, we are Fortunate enough to be living in a country where the Maple Leaf is our Symbol, and our National Pride and the Tree represent our steadfast and Strength..the True North Strong and Free..

  • josh_alexei

    And by the way before Premier McGuinty resigned he declared the Area of Ontario Lager than the Whole Western Europe, Forested and Wetlands Untouchable by anyone…for its Trees, and Underground Resources…It will remain Parks and Conservation area for the enjoyment and recreational parks for the Ontarians for Hunting, Fishings, Hiking, skiings or whaever outdoor activities..

  • positivenews

    tell that to ENRILE who have logging concessions in many areas of the country for his POSPORO company. Enrile is a BAD TREE that needed to be uprooted.. and i’m barking at the right tree.

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