SO THE City Government hits a snag again, over something Councilor Dave Tumulak earlier seemed so certain about—turning a five-hectare lot in Barangay Guba into the site for the Cebu City Botanical Memorial Garden in Sitio Catives.
Tumulak on July 10 assured there was no problem with cutting down 300 mahogany trees to clear the area for the planned cemetery as they were anyway not an endangered species. The trees reportedly were planted through a resident’s initiative.
Cebu City is in a rush to build a cemetery following a growing death toll that had filled mortuaries and public cemeteries to the rafters. As of July 13, Cebu City’s Covid-19 death toll reached 384. A little over half of these were recorded in the last two weeks.
In its haste, the City Government’s attention was called by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) after it found the former skirting some environmental laws. The agency ordered the city to cease the cutting of trees and consequently confiscated those that had been cut. The City cut the trees without the pertinent documents to show for it. The DENR also warned City Hall against developing the site without a Protected Area Management Plan and without applying for an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC).
Where do the city officials get their aplomb each time they hand down decisions? In a time when the right calls have to be made for them to earn the much needed public trust in the health crisis, they keep on falling into missteps.
No small thanks to DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu who had ordered to place the cemetery instead in Barangay Sapangdaku after a DENR 7 Protected Areas Management Board resolution denied the City’s application to build the cemetery in a protected area.
The cemetery will now be located in a two-hectare timberland area in Sitio Patayng Yuta and Sitio Baksan, Barangay Sapangdaku.
Cimatu said they will create a technical working group composed of representatives from the Environmental Management Bureau, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, and the Department of Health. This is to facilitate a quicker processing of requirements. No shortcuts must be made, Cimatu said.
The City’s executive must have the supporting resolution from the City Council. It must secure the ECC, draw up a development plan for the area and documents to support the cutting of trees.
On the other hand, we do hope the location had been carefully surveyed. This is a cemetery made for the Covid-19 dead, and extra measures have to be done.