Editorial: CCTV footage on lost trees

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

THE loss of 79 trees in the ongoing rehabilitation work by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) along Serging Osmeña Blvd. may have exposed a questionable side of Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama.

The trees have been considered missing and in investigation on the loss is being conducted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). A closed circuit television (CCTV) footage recorded by Cebu City’s Command Control Center (C3) could be key to the probe. It showed who removed the trees from the road’s center island.

Interestingly, Rama and the C3 head, City Councilor Dave Tumulak, have refused to give the DENR a copy of the CCTV footage. They even set a dubious condition for the release of the footage: DENR must first secure a court order.


And yet prior to this, the mayor has been aggressively supervising the road rehabilitation work, forcing DPWH to revise the rehab plan and conducting regular inspection of the entire road stretch. Consider, too, that the city government would have benefited from the use of those trees.

Among the conditions set by DENR for DPWH and the project’s contractor, WT Construction, to follow is for them to earth-ball the trees in the presence of personnel from DENR and the Parks and Playgrounds Commission of the city.

Some of the trees were supposed to be transplanted to city-managed facilities like the Plaza Independencia and the virtually tree-less Senior Citizens Park. Sources say that personnel of the Parks and Playgrounds Commission have even mapped out the spots where the earth-balled trees would be replanted.

Thus, the calmness of Rama’s response to the loss of the trees along Serging Osmeña Blvd. is surprising. So too his and Tumulak’s refusal to give a copy of the CCTV footage to DENR. Some sectors are therefore prompted to ask: Who are they protecting? And Rama could not blame them for raising that question.

If Rama thinks that the loss of the trees is a small matter, then he should think again. Protection of the environment is a legitimate concern. It is a cause that all government officials should embrace.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 11, 2014.


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