Tree cutting moratorium in Baguio proposed

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The City Council, during last Monday’s regular session, approved on first reading a proposed ordinance declaring a tree cutting moratorium in the city and imposing sanctions to violations.

The Council stated that the primary objective of the proposed moratorium is to arrest the degradation and wanton destruction of the city’s forest resources.

City legislators claimed it will be a declared policy of the city government to allow the city’s environment to recover and to heal itself by temporarily prohibiting the cutting of trees within the city.

However, dead trees and trees that poses danger to life, safety and property shall be exempted from the coverage of the tree cutting moratorium.

The council disclosed the moratorium shall be in effect for at least 5 continuous years from the date of the effectivity of the ordinance with an option of extension upon the legislative action of the body.

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The Council tasked the City Environment and Parks Management Office (CEPMO) to strictly monitor the implementation of the proposed moratorium and act on behalf of the city government in the apprehension and the imposition of sanctions of individuals or groups, may it be private or public, for violations of the same.

Violators of the provisions of the ordinance shall be fined P5,000 and confiscation of the lumber, any tree cutting tools and equipment and imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year or both upon the discretion of the court for first and succeeding offenses without prejudice to any possible criminal or civil liability.

The council disclosed that the latest tree inventory conducted by the Cordillera office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR-CAR) and CEPMO showed there are more than 2.5 million trees in the city thriving in the forest and reservations, watersheds, parks, road-rights-of-way, government lots, including private properties.

Recent studies claimed a community needs at least 40 percent of its total land area covered by forest or urban tree canopy to maintain a healthy and stable ecosystem but the city has already reached the point below the aforesaid threshold with its urban tree cover at only 28.28 percent which is equivalent to only 1,643 hectares out of its total land area of 5,749 hectares.

The council added the city’s urban crying capacity indicates that its current tree population is sufficient for over 350,000 residents, and a daytime population that climbs to over 700,000 with the influx of out of town workers, students, businessmen and tourists.

The council stipulated drastic measures are needed to effectively and efficiently arrest alleged over development and preserve the city’s remaining urban forest to sustain a healthy environment for the future.

Ironically, a huge number of pine trees in the city are on the brink of extinction because of the ongoing advances in urban development and to the rapid growth of population due to migration in the city.

By Dexter A. See

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