Cebu parish calls for protection of 700 trees amid road widening project

John Sitchon

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Cebu parish calls for protection of 700 trees amid road widening project

NUMBERED. The trees numbered in red markings along a road in Barangay Adela in Poro town, Camotes Islands, Cebu are at the center of a controversy surrounding a provincial capitol-funded 13.43-kilometer road widening project.

Jacqueline Hernandez/Rappler

The project contractor assures the Santo Niño Parish of Poro town that only trees that pose a risk to motorists and residents would be affected

CEBU, Philippines – The Santo Niño Parish of Poro town in Camotes, Cebu, has called for the protection of 743 trees amid a 13.43-kilometer road widening project in that area.

In April, residents and parishioners led by Father Joel Bonza, started a petition to urge government officials to halt the project that they claimed would lead to the cutting of trees in barangays Mercedes, Esperanza, Adela, San Jose, and Daan Paz. 

“The Sto. Niño Parish is advocating for the rights of the environment inspired by the encyclical of Pope Francis Laudato Si, ‘Care for our Common Home.’ We are appealing to reconsider the decision in giving permit to cut trees for road widening in some barangays (Mercedes, Esperanza, Adela, San Jose, and Daan Paz) of Poro, Camotes Islands, Cebu,” part of the petition read.

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Bonza told Rappler on Thursday, May 23, that they were concerned about the project’s impact on the town’s biodiversity as well as residents who are already feeling the effects of global warming.

“Importante ang mga kahoyan kay makahatag kini og kabugnaw…. Kung mawala kini, luoy ang mga pobre, mga estudyante, mga way sakyanan,” the parish priest said. 

(These trees are important because they give us a colder environment…. if these will disappear, the poor, the students, and those without vehicles are the most affected)

Some 1,681 individuals signed the petition as of Thursday morning.

No cutting yet

During a meeting with representatives from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and local government officials on Wednesday, May 22, Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia called the priests “liars” for supposedly spreading misinformation about the project.

The governor, citing a report from DENR, said that there were no ongoing tree-cutting activities along the 13.43-kilometer stretch of the project.

Anjo Gonzalodo, the project contractor, confirmed that his company has yet to apply for a tree-cutting permit from DENR and has only marked the trees with red paint to identify them and check if these were within the provincial road’s right-of-way.

Plant, Tree, Soil
OLD. Residents have put up posters on the town’s trees in an effort to save them from being possibly cut for the road widening project. Jacqueline Hernandez/Rappler

When asked about the trees that fell near the project area in Barangay San Jose, the contractor clarified that the trees were already in poor health and fell just as they did the clearing operation.

Garcia, for her part, explained that it was her duty to implement the project, saying that it had already faced multiple delays due to the inability of the previous contractor to meet the project deadlines.

The provincial government allocated P270 million to fund the road widening project that would connect the towns of Poro and Tudela in the island. The project aims to widen the road from four meters to 10 meters.


Gonzalodo assured the parish that only trees that pose a risk to motorists and residents would be affected by the project. 

The governor said that there were less than 50 trees identified as hazardous. 

Meanwhile, Romeo Bulotano Jr., a DENR attorney, urged the contractor to submit a site development plan on the project and to ensure that the trees to be cut down would be replaced.

Civil works for the road widening project are ongoing as of posting time. Garcia has ordered the contractor to acquire the permits for the removal of the hazardous trees.

Bonza told Rappler that they will continue to monitor the project and hoped that the road widening would only affect a small population of trees in the town.

“As much as possible, we save the trees, especially the ones that do not have to be cut down,” the parish priest said. –

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