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cecile s. yumul
cecile s yumul LAWAN YU lang mangatuliran ding aliuang ating pera king Pampanga:

Pepakibatan daku karening interview pemakibat nang Rene Romero king obat kailangan dang mate ding anggang tanaman MacArthur Highway.

Lawen ku mo nung ekayu migaligit kalupa ko. Sincatutu ta naman mo, abe!

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Below are points raised by Rene Romero followed by my counterpoints (I hope you can pitch in point by point as well).

1. ROMERO: Trees are replaceable, lives are not. Trees are accident traps in the area because of their location, and they are too old already besides. There will be many work opportunities if the highway is constructed into a bigger six-laner. New investments will come in. More investors mean more work and lesser poor people.

YUMUL: In case Romero has forgotten where he comes from, we humans are just one of the creatures of planet Earth. Men like him are some of the greatest takers of our natural resources. Trees are life givers, not takers and (ab)users. It is not in Romero's power to declare who or what can be replaced—or is too old or not, for that matter.

One person causes about 10 tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year. One tree removes about one ton of CO2 per year. In one year, an acre of trees can absorb as much carbon as is produced by a car driven up to 8,700 miles.

Trees are the longest living and largest living organisms on Earth. Birds and animals use trees for their homes and shelter and as a source of food. Tree roots stabilize the soil and prevent erosion. Trees improve water quality by slowing and filtering rainwater as well as protecting aquifers and watersheds.

While it is true that opportunities for business will come in, the residents who will be in constant exposure to the daily air pollutants must be given the most important consideration. If we are to follow the vision of incumbent mayor Oscar Rodriguez, we see conflict arising in wanting to see Pampanga as a "Habitat for Human Excellence." The proponents for the killing of all trees along MacArthur Highway imperil the very people they seemingly want to serve and give a better life to.

We must learn from the errors of those who pushed ahead for economic progress, industry, and the like in this debate. After decades of what seemed like a progressive lifestyle, the damaging effects are now established. To cite one example:

In a recent study at the Queensland University of Technology, senior research fellow Dr. Adrian Barnett said the study compared the fetus sizes of more than 15,000 ultrasound scans in Brisbane to air pollutant levels within a 14-kilometer radius of the city. The study found that mothers with a higher exposure to air pollution had fetuses that were, on the average, smaller in terms of abdominal circumference, head circumference and femur length. Where pollution levels were high, as compared to those at different distances, fetuses exposed to pollutants such as sulfur dioxide found in diesel emissions, the fetus sizes decreased significantly. This 10-year study was undertaken by Dr. Barnett. Dr. Craig Hansen of the US Environmental Protection Agency and Dr. Gary Pritchard and has been published in the international journal, Environmental Health Perspectives.

While we don't see air pollution, we must remember that most air pollutants are not visible to the naked eye. This is particularly a problem for people who live near major roads.

2. ROMERO: It will be a progressive Pampanga once trees are cut, paving the way for major rehab of the highway.

YUMUL: Last year in the Senate hearing and site inspection the Committee on Environment upheld our arguments, resulting in the issuance of a cease and desist order by DPWH Region 3 Director Tolentino effective July 29, 2009.
Abstract from "Manila-North Road
Without Acacia Trees":


"There is now an ongoing massacre of acacia and other trees along the Manila North Road on the justification that the cutting of these almost century-old living, breathing creations of God will pave the way for progress and development.

"We are not against progress and development. But we believe there are alternative solutions without sacrificing these mute, gentle creations which have provided us fresh air, natural shade, etc.

"We dispute the following justifications for this massacre:

"1. DPWH position - Road widening on the existing four lanes is necessary in anticipation of a heavier volume of traffic in the future.

"Save The Trees Coalition position - The existing four-lane road from past Sindalan (where trees have already been killed ) to Telabastagan is wide enough.

"2. DPWH - Acacia trees pose a threat to motorists plying the Manila North road, which justifies the removal of trees—to save one life is more important than the trees.

"Save The Trees Coalition - The acacia trees have been around for more than 50 years and are not an overnight monstrosity that appeared suddenly. In most cases it is the driver under the influence of alcohol/liquor or one who is reckless and unmindful of road courtesy who poses the gravest threat to fellow motorists—not the acacia trees.

"3. DPWH - Will replace the trees at a ratio of 30 to one adult tree killed.

"Save The Trees Coalition - Aside from being oxygen producers, the entire biochain lost in the vicinity is irreplaceable no matter how many seedlings will be provided by the DENR nursery. A massive volume of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide emission will concentrate in the areas under protest: residential communities, business establishments, schools, hospitals among others.

"4. DPWH - The acacia trees cause damage to concrete pavements and obstruct the canals because of their deep rooting system, therefore causing flashfloods during heavy rains.

"Save The Trees Coalition - The common acacia tree absorbs considerable amounts of water through their efficient root system.

"Their deep roots survive through drought and famine from four to six months. Since the acacia is a nitrogen-fixing tree it can be pruned or lopped as often as four times a year, thus eliminating the mentioned threat of falling branches to passing motorists, and yet still have a healthy sprout of massive leafy crown.

"Each adult tree's deep rooting system has the capability to filter 1.78 million gallons of water annually and hold within it an average of five thousand-plus gallons of water, which is crucial to surrounding residential communities and industries (for personal and industrial consumption on a round the clock basis).

"5. DPWH - Removal of the acacia trees will ease traffic congestion and will cut down travel time. It will accommodate the influx of motorists who are unable to afford the toll fees from the expressways.

"Save The Trees Coalition - The traffic congestion occurs because of lack of discipline among motorists.

"In the contested areas, there is never any turtle's pace nor standstill traffic at any given time. Strict implementation of existing traffic rules and regulations and the presence of enforcers at critical points, such as at entrances and exits of highly populated barangays classified as residential and industrial zones, will ease traffic.

"In the equation of fair and just distribution, it is not fair to us residents to favor in consideration the financial savings of the passing motorist over the threat on our health, depletion of critical water supply, and lives in general."

"We invoke our right guaranteed by Chapter Two, Article 16 of the Philippine Constitution."

3. ROMERO says he had been planting and will plant more trees whether they will be cut or not. He will plant full grown trees to replace what was cut for the protection of the environment.

YUMUL: Romero might do just that, because he is espousing the death of not only these trees but of all the other creatures dependent on these life givers. For all his efforts, though, even beyond his lifetime he will not be able to replace the collateral losses from what he proposes to kill in the next decade(s).

The average tree in a metropolitan area survives for only about 8 years! A tree does not reach its most productive stage of carbon storage for about 10 years. The death of one 70-year-old tree would return over three tons of carbon to the atmosphere.

The amount of oxygen produced by an acre of trees per year equals the amount consumed by 18 people annually. One tree produces nearly 260 pounds of oxygen each year. One acre of trees removes up to 2.6 tons of carbon dioxide each year. Trees can be a stimulus to economic development and to attract new business and tourism.

Each adult tree, through its deep rooting system, has the capability to filter 1.78 million gallons of water annually and to hold an average of five thousand-plus gallons of water, which is crucial to surrounding residential communities and industries (for personal and industrial consumption on a round-the-clock basis).

4. ROMERO: Acacias were planted there several years ago and they already served their purposes. Now, it's a different time and the needs are different.

YUMUL: On the contrary, with the province moving fast towards industrialization, the remaining trees are more valuable now than any new sapling they will plant.

True, businessmen like him have the greatest responsibility to replace the resources they take because they are also the greatest consumers of our natural resources. Not any one man-much less Romero, in fact-can replicate the value of the trees he desires to kill because:

In 50 years one tree recycles more than $37,000 (P1.78 million ) worth of water, provides $31,000(P1.488 million) worth of erosion control, ensures $62,000 (P2.98million) worth of air pollution control, and produces $37,000(P1.78 million) worth of oxygen. Following the rationale of Romero, the trees have become more valuable now with the anticipated influx of vehicles passing through MacArthur Highway.

Thriving with the changed landscape since the road widening project was approved are several subdivisions, new housing facilities, schools, and hospitals. On the very same stretch are various business establishments. Understandably, that means human traffic as well-people doing their trade, bringing their children to and from school, traversing the road to and from their residences daily on a 24/7 basis.

Trees help prevent flooding in the city by catching raindrops and offsetting runoff caused by buildings and parking lots. Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng have demonstrated this. Never in the history of Pampanga was there any flooding on the MacArthur Highway stretch until they killed the trees. One such area was right along the area of a big hospital (Mother of Calcutta). Video footages give evidence: up to the point where the trees were killed was floodwater. Where the trees remained intact no sight of any floodwater even despite the absence of man-made concrete canals.

Trees are good noise barriers, making a city and neighborhood quieter. Located along the stretch where the trees are being threatened, if not already killed, are medical centers: Mother of Calcutta (where the trees have been razed to the ground), Mt. Carmel Hospital, Angeles University Medical Center, and the just recently opened Sacred Heart Hospital. Hospital patients heal faster; require shorter stays and less painkillers if room windows faced trees.

Well placed trees help cut energy costs and consumption by decreasing air conditioning costs at 10 to 50 percent. A tree-line buffer between fields and streams helps remove farming pollutants before they reach the water.

5. ROMERO dares some of the environmentalists if they themselves plant trees.

YUMUL: Caring and nurturing the resources we have remaining is part and parcel of everyman's responsibility as caretaker of this planet.

Planting trees alone with assurance that they will grow like those we have planted in different areas in the country in our younger years-what more if added to this fruit seed gathering, providing seedlings, and many acts of responsible citizenship-create for an atmosphere of holistic progress. This should be our ultimate goal.

Whatever harms and destroys that which man (like Romero) cannot create, for all his financial resources, he has no right to take away.


[About the author. Cecile Santos Yumul is a veteran award winning Broadcast Journalist, a visionary teacher (Most Outstanding Teacher of the Philipines in 1992), a nationalist (Most Outstanding Kapampangan for Education in 1993), an environmentalist, and a dedicated daughter. She has over 35 years experience in the field of arts as an actor, director, and author. She is a published writer (Woman's Magazine) of essays, poems, short stories, and social commentaries. She currently resides in Lakandula, Mabalacat, Pampanga with her Mother, 18 dogs, doves, and bonsais.]

-Posted: 7:30 AM 7/13/10 | More of this author on eK!
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