On The Willful Destruction Of Trees In Subdivisions
By Digoy Fernandez ONE fine morning, I was rudely awakened from my short morning nap -- yes, age requires one to cat nap every now and then -- by an obviously disturbed neighbour and fellow tree lover who was distressed by an apparent policy wherein the village officials and staff approved the cutting of any tree within the subdivision for the amount of P2,000. Of course, I was happy that someone else was bothered by this violation of PD 953 that not only mandates the planting of trees along streets and parks in subdivisions, but also exacts a heavy penalty on the unwarranted cutting down of said trees. Over the past two to three years, I saw a group of misguided village officials begin to cut down trees they did not like, whether on empty lots or along sidewalks. These officials earned for themselves the sobriquet “Putol Boys” from others who were bothered by the cutting down of trees but who preferred to remain silent on the issue. First, they cut down the second row of trees in the entire park, one that gave the feeling of a canopy to the area, to make way for flowering bushes and plants. I know enough about gardening to observe that flowering plants do best along semi-shaded or full sun areas, but that these areas should not be earned by cutting down trees to provide space for them. We have a very big park, for heaven’s sake. Second, they cut down trees not in the approved list, doing away with alibangbangs, mahogany, and neem trees, among others. To think that we had only included in the list the obviously destructive and extremely large trees like the gemelina, the brittle acacias brought in from New Zealand, giant ipil ipil, etc. They even cut down trees in empty lots, and only sort of stopped when I told them that maybe absentee owners planted those in anticipation of building in the future with the benefit of a large shade tree in place. What takes the cake is that they cleaned the village of all aratiles trees, the favourite of many birds, bats, and even village children and adults. Sheesh! In my street alone, they cut down about seven to ten shade trees (alibangbang, neem, and caballero), making our area look like the Gobi desert when the sun is out in full force. Unfortunately, some neighbours believe that we already have too many trees. This I do not believe, because my friend Ed de Vera and I helped – at one time or the other – formulate tree planting and preservation rules that have seen other villages in the vicinity look like nice subdivisions that one sees in other countries. In my brother’s neighboring subdivision, they fine anyone who cuts down a tree about P20K and then order the erring homeowner to plant exactly the same tree in exactly the same place. Yes, we had rules in place at one time or the other, but many of these seem to have been conveniently forgotten by subsequent administrations. Instead, we seem to have developed a “concrete” mentality wherein everything that can be covered with concrete should be so covered! If a test were to be taken with respect to my own village’s carbon footprint, we would loom large as a substantial contributor to global warming. Many times, village officials roll out the arguments that trees get in the way of power lines or cause leaks in the water system, or destroy sidewalks. These points are valid, but they do not constitute a reason to go through a clear cutting exercise. Each tree’s case should be studied – and indeed, it should under the terms of PD 953 – and examined to see if a happy medium can be achieved. For example, at one time in the past, former Sec Jun Factoran and I managed to save a large acacia tree whose roots had punched a hole in our water pipe. We arranged to have the offending root excised and wrapped in concrete, and then repaired the water pipe. Happy solution that pleased everyone. We got to keep the tree and the water system was spared any more damage. However, in most cases these days, the village officials take the path of least resistance and cut down trees galore. Many times in the past, friends and I gave seminars to the village staff and officials on the proper way to maintain and prune trees. If they had only listened then -- and also watched the Meralco subcontractors like hawk – our trees would have formed perfect Vees under the power lines and not look like the jumble of leaves and branches we have today because of the faulty pruning methods used that only created more water sprites and shoots. I have long refrained from mentioning my village because I still live here and have many neighbours of various persuasions, some pro-environment, others paying less than lip service to the cause, if at all. But like my angry neighbour, I guess enough is enough, and we should stop the cutting of trees before our village registers a collective temperature about 10 degrees above the ambient temperature elsewhere.
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