To see a chief executive taking lead in planting tree seedlings along General Luna St. in its bid to beautify the roads and highways within Iloilo City can help convey a message that something meaningful is taking place in this side of the world.
The image, however, does not complete the picture in as far as consistency in exercising political will over environmental concerns is concerned. Few years back, the City Government claimed that the 1.7 kilometer stretch that made up the Gen. Luna St. is already impossible for road widening in the midst of worsening vehicular traffic congestion.
The claim was temporary though. It drastically transformed Gen. Luna St. after the “Tulay ng Pangulo” project of Mrs. Gloria Arroyo came to town with a bang. There was no show of opposition from the City Government eventhough heritage preservation was already a trendy enterprise. Many, if not all, of the politicians in power at that time claimed to be sensitive to the environment and in preserving heritage structures and sites.
The Tulay ng Pangulo project did not only claim the age-old pine trees but demolished the concrete pavement that likewise served as a division in the middle of the road. In its place, the Dept. of Public Works and Highways constructed the semi-giant “road hump”, technically known as flyover – a facility that did not offer a solution to traffic congestion in the area. One can satisfy its imagination of a traffic jam-free street for a moment by going up into the flyover but only to hug the reality halfway going down on the same street jammed by vehicles.
What it served was nothing more than suspending the traffic flow by literally suspending vehicles at the top of the flyover during pick hours wherein the whole stretch of the road is jammed by motorists rushing to their desired destination.
Upon the construction of the semi-giant humps, the road shoulders were subjected to road widening and carved a portion of what is already considered a small sidewalk. What has been considered impossible for road widening suddenly became possible. The road was widened. These are unexpected miracles that sometimes development brings out. It proved that Iloilo City possess excellent urban planners among the circle of urban planners.
Fast forward today, the concrete pavement dividing the street has been sliced like a cake by a new set of road widening effort. Like a déjà vu, no consideration was taken to the age-old trees, some of which were older than our current politicians, while new ones were planted. How I wish we have a senior citizen law that will govern how the lives of senior citizen trees will be managed by a local government.
The carrier of people’s voice on environmental issues at the City Council were nowhere to be heard. Maybe the tress are not really something that deserves a voice in the council or which demands attention or perhaps declaring an Arbor Day in Iloilo City will also prove a miracle worker.
The current effort proceeded although it confronted some opposition from professionals who espouses sustainable environmental practices in the midst of growing urbanization. But what can professionals do to counter the effort of the politicians they supported for election? What it can get is the blame of opposing for it resulted in the day-to-day traffic jam. For the DPWH officials, preventing the agency from cutting the trees delayed the project works. The agency director in the region was even quoted saying that the project was stalled as a result of the “LGU’s having no categorical stand on the trees” along Gen. Luna St., as the subject of the opposition.
How could it make a stand when positions on the issues are contradictory to environmental management and inconsistent (or selective) with heritage preservation. But a “scientist” holding a top office at the city hall was one time quoted as saying that the trees along Gen. Luna St. are already too old – it can hardly serve to absorb pollution or carbon dioxide. Hence, we need to plant new trees and cut those old ones.
The City Government has claimed many times over that it is sensitive to the environment. But goodbye to the pine trees of the Roding Ganzon lore. A bitter goodbye was also done to the age-old mangroves hugging the shoulders of the Dunggon Creek as a result of the utter lack of innovative dredging practice. But if you criticize these methods in this side of the globe, you need a dredging machine yourself in order to illustrate to the city’s Harvard-educated politician how it can be done more sustainably.
If you are incapable of doing just that, you must accept a seemingly substantial interventions from a highly-urbanized local government such as planting trees at the Calajunan dumpsite as a requirement of would be couples before wedding. One can also take recourse from a resolution or ordinance passed by the City Council making tree planting significant as ever by declaring an Arbor Day. These initiatives must make people look forward of Iloilo City becoming a carbon sink in spite being a speck in the globe.
These are just manifestations of a dynamic environment. For this reason, I encourage critiques of the Mabilog administration to move over. We cut trees and in its place we plant exotic and expensive palms. You wouldn’t be surprised if the scientist at the city hall will assert that these are more efficient carbon dioxide absorbers. Beyond logic, science, necessity and functionality; it is simply more beautiful this way.