• Saving the trees from Maharlika Road widening project in Naga

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    Last month, a group of concerned citizens in Naga City, Camarines Sur mobilized for a cause for trees. The issue—the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) wanted to free up some space for a road widening effort along Maharlika Highway, a major route connecting Naga to the southern areas of the Bicol region. Unfortunately, the project entails cutting down over 600 trees that were aged 40 to 70 years old.

    The group Save 651’s movement of opposing the cutting of the trees has had some gains. Through the group’s effort of talking to agencies like the DPWH, the local government and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the latter’s provincial office issued a memorandum on July 25 against the planned massive tree cutting.

    Since learning of the DPWH’S plan on June 29, the ball is back now on that same agency’s court. The campaigners are hoping the DPWH will not pursue with its initial plan.

    And that is for good reason. According to the Provincial Environment and Resources Center, there is a possible alternative to widening Maharlika. That is by converting an existing city highway into the national highway and widening this road instead. That way, there’s no need to cut the trees.

    The people of Naga City have spoken as well. As early as July 9, the city council has passed a resolution opposing the road widening plan as it was initially conceived, urging the DPWH instead to consider alternatives.

    Why this kind of support for an advocacy? Because the citizens knew what was at stake, and they valued what they have. In fact the plan to cut down hundreds of mature, old narras, talisays and acacias betrays the kind of mentality that has led us to this pass—where now only 24 percent of our forests remain, boding ill for our future. This is a mentality that looks only at these living beings as resources to be extracted—as so many bundles of logs and timber to be uprooted, without realizing what they are in essence: The water we drink, the food we eat—the very air we breathe.

    Let us support Save 651 and in this light support too some law initiatives such as House Bill 95 and Senate Bill 45, or the Forest Resources Bill, that strive precisely to conserve what remains of our forests, not least by making us see what forests really are, and that we owe them a little more respect.

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