Thank you, God, for creating trees | Inquirer Opinion
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Thank you, God, for creating trees

/ 03:57 AM September 19, 2014

A photograph on an inside page of the Inquirer early this week showed big beautiful trees along a highway in Pangasinan. Those trees would have been cut had not environmentalists protested and Secretary Ramon Paje of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (may his tribe increase)

issued a freeze order on all tree-cutting. The freeze order came too late to save 1,829 trees, but saved 770 other trees marked for

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execution.

Rep. Mark Cojuangco of Pangasinan is furious. He wants the tree-cutting to continue. The trees are blocking the widening of the highway, he said.

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Congressman Cojuangco has no imagination, which, I hope, is not the case with all members of Congress. Roads can be widened without cutting trees. It has been done many times before, not only in the Philippines but in many other countries as well. And it is easy, simple and cheap. Just widen the road on the other side of the trees and make the line of trees a traffic island, thus making the road safer. In the provinces, this is not difficult to do as there is plenty of land there.

I invite Congressman Cojuangco and others like him to visit Quezon City and see how the Department of Public Works and Highways saved the trees along Katipunan Avenue, behind the University of the Philippines campus in Diliman, and on Kalayaan Avenue, which runs beside Quezon City Hall, and still widened the roads.

Not only were the trees spared, the roads were also made safer and more beautiful. The DPWH made other lanes on the other side of the lines of trees and built flower boxes around the tree trunks. The trees now function as traffic dividers. In case a speeding vehicle loses its brakes, it will not collide head-on with oncoming vehicles. It would crash into the line of trees, which would act as a cushion, thus lessening the impact and saving lives.

That’s what Secretary Paje directed the

DPWH to do: Study the road-widening plans again and find ways to save the trees. I am sure Congressman Cojuangco has gone to many places in the world and seen how roads were widened without trees being cut. In California in the United States, authorities made roads run through holes bored into the trunks of

giant sequoia trees rather than cut them. Singapore is called the “Garden City” because of its many trees. Do you know where the first of those tree seedlings came from? The Philippines.

Congressman Cojuangco said the planting of trees along roads should be banned. I can’t believe a member of the House of Representatives said that. They are supposed to be the better educated and more enlightened members of society. I am sure Cojuangco has driven, or been driven, on roads lined with trees here and in other countries. Wasn’t it relaxing and pleasurable to pass under the shade of trees? Weren’t these tree-shaded roads beautiful? When passing under them, wasn’t he grateful that the trees were there? Just looking at tree-shaded lanes makes me want to walk under them.

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I ask those who do not agree with me to drive, in the summer, on parts of highways in Laguna, Batangas and Quezon, where fire trees line the roads, and see how beautiful they are. It would make one wish that the DPWH would plant more trees along more roadsides and the DENR on our bald mountainsides. It would make one thank God that He created trees.

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I suggest that the DENR and DPWH investigate where the wood from the cut trees ended up. Some people suspect that the wood was sold by contractors or unscrupulous DPWH personnel to lumberyards, furniture makers and wood carvers. There is now an acute shortage of wood in the Philippines because of the logging ban and the denudation of our forests. The only big trees left are those on the roadsides. Is that the reason there is a scramble to cut those trees?

Wood carvers and furniture makers are complaining that it is now very difficult to find wood for their crafts. Lumberyards now saw mostly coconut-tree trunks into coco lumber. But coco lumber does not last long: It is soft and rots easily. Coco lumber is used mostly as scaffolding in the construction of houses. Contractors now use steel for scaffolding in the construction of buildings, but for one- and two-story houses, they still use coco lumber. It is possible that the wood now being used is from the trees cut inroad-widening projects.

Years ago, when flue-curing of Virginia tobacco was at its height in the Ilocos provinces, there was a shortage of firewood for the flue-curing barns, and even trees in residential backyards were decimated. Is this still going on? Where do the flue-curing barns get their fuel now?

When the bakeries needed plenty of fuel years ago, the mangrove colonies were decimated to provide hardwood for them. Now, the thousands of ihaw-ihaw restaurants and sidewalk barbecue stands need plenty of charcoal. Squatters and charcoal makers now decimate what remains of the second-growth forests to make charcoal. The DENR should find an alternative to these practices.

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TAGS: Department of Environment and Natural Resources, God, Ramon Paje, trees
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