Editorial: Running priest’s enthusiasm

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Thursday, July 31, 2014

ONE could never fault Fr. Robert Reyes, known as the activist “running priest,” for lack of enthusiasm. Not based in Cebu, the priest spent precious time in a visit here the other to promote one of his advocacies, which is protecting the trees.

As chair of the National Coalition to Save the Trees, Reyes must have heard about the controversial road expansion plan of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) at the Naga City to Carcar City portion of the south national highway. That plan would have included cutting some of the “century-old” trees lining parts of the roadsides.

Had Reyes did his thing, which was to tie white ribbons around some of the giant trees, last year, his act would have looked more heroic. But other environmentalists before him had exhausted the forms of struggle in their arsenal to push government to at least revise the road expansion plan so the trees won’t be touched.


And they were effective. The protest, which included, yes, tying ribbons around the trees and lobbying with officials of local government units (LGUs) like the Cebu Provincial Government and the Department of Environment of Natural Resources (DENR), did result in the trees, even the decaying ones, being left where they are standing.

Reyes’s entrance into the scene was therefore mere repetition of what has already been said and done months before. That may not have been much of a problem had not the situation changed in the past weeks.

Two decayed giant acacia trees have fallen. Structures and vehicles were damaged and there were injuries but fortunately no lives were lost. Still, the two incidents caused inconvenience to motorists.

Opinion on those trees has shifted considerably since then. The need to cut the remaining decaying trees became a priority. The realization was that further delays would only increase the danger to commuters and people living in the areas where these trees are. That has silenced even local environmental activists.

Again, no one can say Fr. Reyes lacks enthusiasm. It’s just that, this time around, that enthusiasm seems to have made him leap before he looked.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 01, 2014.


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