Spare heritage trees, encourage biking, walking instead of widening roads, says Davao councilor

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 3 December) – Instead of road widening projects, people must be encouraged to bike and walk as a means to address the city’s traffic problems without harming the environment, 2nd district Councilor Diosdado Angelo R. Mahipus Jr. said.

Mahipus’ proposal came after environmentalists voiced opposition to the P400-million road widening project of the Department of Public Works and Highways-Davao that threatens the 70-year old trees, mostly narra (Pterocarpus indicus or Red Sandalwood), outside the Ateneo de Davao University’s Grade School and Junior High School campus along McArthur Highway.

Environmentalists in Davao City are opposing the plan of the Department of Public Works and Highways to cut down heritage trees to give way to a lay-by and road expansion project along McArthur Highway in Davao City. Photo courtesy of SAVE HERITAGE TREES

He said he will propose an ordinance prohibiting the cutting of heritage trees, and recommended building wider sidewalks, sidewalks with protective barriers, and networks of tree-shaded walkways.

“We must encourage people to no longer rely on cars for their short distance travels by making it safe, convenient, comfortable, if not leisurely, to make use of alternative modes of transportation,” he added.

Mahipus said the worsening traffic congestion cannot be addressed by widening the city’s tight roads, explaining that the increased volume of motor vehicles largely contributed to the problem.

“Road widening alone is eventually of minimal effect if motor vehicles on our roads also exponentially increase overtime as well,” he said.

He supported the opposition of Mayor Sara Duterte to the project, saying DPWH-Davao must employ engineering solutions “in such a way that even if the project pushes through, the trees should remain there.”

Chinkee P. Golle, executive director of Interface Development Interventions for Sustainability Inc. said Thursday they welcomed the proposed measure banning the cutting of heritage trees.

She said it is urgently needed.

“We appreciate the promptness of action undertaken by Councilor Mahipus with his commitment to pass an ordinance and the public statement of Mayor Sara. We hope that both will translate to actual policy and revised development plan of the DPWH as well as to the stoppage of cutting of trees in the urban areas,” she said.

DPWH-Davao Region public affairs and information officer Dean Ortiz said the agency will make adjustments to its lay-by design to lessen the impact on the heritage trees.

“Since this is a road widening project, understandably there will be several properties that will be affected, including that part of the property of Ateneo for the provision of a lay-by,” he said.

He added the project was undergoing a feasibility study, which will factor in the environmental impact.

“We can assure everyone that we will obtain the necessary permits before we embark on our projects,” he said.

He said the agency will replace any trees affected by the project if necessary.

The road widening project, which will start from Sandawa to Tulip Drive Junction, will be implemented in preparation for the construction of the P600-million 1.7-kilometer Ma-a Flyover project, which will start early next year, he said. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)