200 trees cut down for Samal bridge project questioned

May. 20, 2024

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Environmental groups want the city government of Davao to hold a regional government agency and its Chinese contractors responsible for the cutting of more than 200 trees in Lanang in its clearing operations for the start of the construction of the Samal Island – Davao City (SIDC) bridge project.

Last May 9, some 223 trees, located near the coast of Insular Village were cut down. The incident was posted on news and social media which generated criticisms by netizens.

The groups Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (IDIS) and the Sustainable Davao Movement (SDM) protest the cutting of trees as it is covered by the Davao City Heritage Trees Protection Ordinance.  

IDIS executive director Attorney Mark Peñalver in an interview calls out the city council, particularly the committee on environment, as the cutting of trees disregards local policies such as the green space requirement under the city’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan and Zoning Ordinance of 2018 – 2028.

“There are environment policies they can check, what happens now to the Save Heritage Trees? Why are they cutting trees, was there any coordination? Can the chair of the committee on environment look into this” asks the environmental lawyer.

In a separate interview, Peñalver said the cutting of trees is ill-timed as the city is bearing extreme heat from El Niño and global warming.

SDM also reiterated in its letter to the city government that they had long questioned the mechanics of the SIDC Project which they point out lacked consultation with local stakeholders.

“If indeed the city is allowing the SIDC Project to commence its activities on land, including this ground clearing, may we beg the local government to hold the DPWH and Chinese contractors accountable for the trees to be cut and green space to be removed?” asks Carmela Marie Santos, convener of SDM Convenor and director of Ecoteneo – Ateneo de Davao University.

Santos asks the city government to look into the project on the side of Davao as there are lapses that will affect the environment.

“We beg for reconsideration and intervention by the Davao LGU on this SIDC Project which has not undergone the usual processes (submission of traffic management plan, genuine and meaningful public consultation, coordination with key agencies like BFAR, CPDO, etc.)  that ensures that projects in Davao City are undertaken with the wellbeing of the environment and its people in mind,” Santos said.

City Councilor Temujin Ocampo, chair of the council’s committee on environment, said in a press conference that the city government could not stop a national project unless the city council opposes it, but they will look into the legal ramifications of the cutting of trees.

Before this incident, the DPWH-Unified Project Management Office (UPMO) appeared in the city council and said they would commit to replacing and planting around 200 trees for every tree cut down for its projects that include the SIDC.

The SIDC bridge project is funded by China’s Official Development Assistance costing P23 billion and is targeted for completion by 2027. (davaotoday.com)

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