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How many more before we say ‘enough’?

/ 12:02 AM August 20, 2015

It is again with great sadness and growing frustration that I write on behalf of our stately trees that cannot speak for themselves. This is in reference to the slaughter of 31 century-old trees on the premises of the stately Army and Navy Club and of the 13 that are to be earth-balled (“Trees at Army Navy Club cut down with DENR clearance,” Lifestyle, 8/10/15). The Army and Navy Club, built in 1909, was declared a National Historical Landmark in 1991. (Why it was allowed to be demolished is yet another story.)

It is beyond me how the Department of Environment and Natural Resources could even give clearance for the cutting and earth-balling of the 44 trees. This agency seems to have lost sight of its primary mandate and has become remiss in protecting the environment. Thousands of age-old, heritage trees have already been allowed to be unceremoniously cut to give way to roads, parking lots, malls, public places, etc., in blatant disregard of the simplest DENR provisions. Were there any prior considerations for more creative or alternative ways to nurture both nature and progress in our pursuit of development?

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On what grounds does the DENR base its decisions in issuing clearances, or have its officials forgotten they have been tasked to protect our environment? It seems they have either been caught flatfooted or were looking the other way, and then responding only too late after the fact.

If architect Felino Palafox Jr. said he made the ancient trees of the Army and Navy Club part of his design for the proposed Oceanville Hotel and Spa, why was he totally ignored by his client? Trees add character and beauty to any place. Why do developers despise trees so much when trees give so many gifts to us without asking much in return but just to be allowed to live and enrich our lives?

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I remember enjoying the facilities of this venerable club for decades. This was one refreshingly lush and green historical recreational refuge in the Manila of our affections. Now we are left with even less trees in this overly polluted city.

Whatever happened to the euphoria over Pope Francis’ recent visit, and his exhortation to be good stewards of the environment and Mother Earth? How quickly man forgets and puts profits above all else.

Where were the mayor, the councilors and the DENR when the noisy chainsaws were wreaking havoc on 31 trees? These trees took a century to grow, yet they were quickly wiped out forever in the wink of a weekend. And doing this dastardly act so hastily on a weekend raises more questions as well, when offices are conveniently closed and the proper authorities cannot be reached for action. Why do people seem so helpless to even stop this from happening, and at least give the trees “due process,” too, by consulting the public, who is now deprived of its natural heritage? Who are accountable?

History has shown over the centuries that when Mother Nature chooses to display her wrath, she can unleash untold damage and havoc. How many trees must die before responsible people cry out “Enough already”?

—TERESA V. MONTILLA, [email protected]

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TAGS: DENR, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, earthballing, trees
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