Following the collapse of a century-old acacia tree on the national highway along Barangay Baay, Batac, Ilocos Norte resulting in a vehicular accident that killed five people recently, a special task force has been formed to conduct inspection and inventory of all trees along the national roads and highways for appropriate remedy and action.
Dubbed “Oplan Sagip Puno”, the task force is composed of representatives from the Departments of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Public Works and Higways (DPWH), the provincial government, and the academe, and aims to formulate an action plan to prevent untoward accidents along the province’s main highways.
According to Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) member Mariano V. Marcos II, the provincial board’s environment committee chair, he said that a final roundtable discussion among the task force members, which included his committee, was held on January 31 to tackle the plight of “killer trees” in the province.
An earlier preliminary discussion was held on January 16.
Owing to the existence of Provincial Ordinance no. 013 series of 1995, passed during the leadership of then Ilocos Norte Vice Governor and SP presiding officer Mariano Nalupta, which prohibits the cutting of trees in a bid to protect the environment, the Sagip Puno task force is expected to request a special order from Ilocos Norte Governor Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. to cut old trees that could no longer be saved through surgical implantation.
Based on DENR findings, some of the old acacia trees lining the province’s national highways, particularly those in southern Ilocos Norte, were already shallow due to insect bites, decaying in their main trunks, and due to their usage as cooking area of some travelers.
However, should the trees need surgical implantation to be saved, Marcos II assured that the provincial government would look for funds to finance the surgical method to preserve these trees.
“Ang mga puno ang nagpapaganda sa ating probinsiya tapos bigla-bigla na lang puputulin. Kung pwede naman nating masalba sa pamamagitan ng surgical method, kailangang maghanap tayo ng pondo para magawa ‘yon (Trees beautify our province and we just can’t cut them. If there’s a possibility of salvaging them through surgical method, then we need to look for funds to realize this),” Marcos II said.
Earlier, Badoc Mayor Thomas N. Torralba appealed to engineer Raymundo C. Gayo of the DENR to initiate a special team to conduct inspection of all trees along the national highway and make recommendations to local officials about their findings.
The victims of the Batac highway mishap were all from Badoc, Ilocos Norte.
“The people of Badoc are in deep mourning due to the untimely demise of our beloved townmates. We fervently pray that the appalling and tragic accident will not happen again,” Torralba said in his written appeal addressed to Gayo, and which a copy was furnished to the provincial board.
Leilanie G. Adriano