YES, I am still obsessing over the Home Sweet Home tree issue. And the cutting of trees to build a mall in Luneta Hill. And the killing of trees by Vista Residences on Outlook Drive. And of the many more trees to be cut as new hotels and commercial structures get built in our what-used-to-be-a-fair city.
“A single mature tree can absorb carbon dioxide at a rate of 48 pounds per year and release enough oxygen back into the atmosphere to support two human beings” — said Mike McAliney in the “Arguments for Land Conservation: Documentation and Information Sources for Land Resources Protection,” Trust for Public Land, Sacramento, California.
Canada’s environmental agency, Environment Canada, said that “On average, one tree produces nearly 260 pounds of oxygen each year. Two mature trees can provide enough oxygen for a family of four.”
And I say: every single tree we see is a public concern – whether it’s growing in public spaces or privately owned commercial or residential land.
How do we quantify how much we lose by, say, cutting trees to make way for condominiums or commercial buildings like malls? Do the trees to be supplanted by cement or concrete only absorb carbon dioxide within the confines of the property where they are located? Are the trees being cut only providing oxygen for the people (if there are people) in the private property of which they are a part of?
In this regard, I would appreciate it very much if the people of Baguio could have a copy of the city’s ordinances concerning tree removal – whether on public spaces or private property – that is, if such a document exists.
After all, no mention of such an ordinance was made when the issue concerning heritage trees was raised. Only the role of the City Environment and Parks Management Officer (CEPMO) in their identification/confirmation and the need to establish a Special Technical Committee for the purpose of confirming, validating and approving listings of heritage tree candidates were mentioned.
In countries like the U.S. and Australia, for example, private property owners still need to apply locally (with their local government body or council) for a tree cutting or removal permit if they want to get rid of a tree for certain purposes or because of specific permitted reasons.
The logic behind this is that all trees are considered community trees.
People do not “own” trees simply because these happen to grow on their property –and this should apply to you and me, too, and people everywhere.
Trees benefit entire communities by:
- cleaning the air people breathe;
- minimizing the urban heat island effect;
- helping prevent erosion and flooding;
- purifying water resources; and
- providing habitat for local wildlife.
The carbon dioxide trees absorb and the oxygen they release are not limited to the property where they are growing.
Therefore, municipalities and cities must regulate tree removal and other tree-related works strictly. They should also allocate sufficient space for trees to grow and thrive.
Our city should also have an annual tree audit listing every single tree growing within its territory, whether a tree is growing on public or private land. The annual tree audit would also do away with the need for barangays to take it upon themselves to identify heritage or any other special trees requiring protection.
Although this would be an arduous undertaking, it will also provide another benefit – it can help us safeguard public or forest land from illegal encroachment or squatting.
Now, Filipinos are among the most cooperative – even passive – human beings on earth; well, except when their private property is threatened. That’s why when tree cutting becomes an issue, everyone seems to be fine with people cutting trees as long as it’s located within their property.
This is also why private entities have no trouble getting a construction permit processed no matter how many trees are affected by their project.
And the most woeful thing in the Philippines is that the national office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has been blamed (and rightfully so) for issuing permits that allow the killing of trees – like the tree cutting in Luneta Hill and Vista Residences.
Now, I’m wondering about the upcoming tree cutting that will be taking place in Mines View involving at least two projects that I know of. Will the local government act surprised when people start asking questions about these?
Or will they just say all the permits seem to be in order, and people in the barangay were consulted?
But again, shouldn’t we all have a say in the killing of any tree – whether it’s one or more trees?
I hope someday we will.
Else, our children and their children had better prepare for desertification.