Townfolk wont allow cutting of centuries-old giant Toog tree

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By CHRIS V. PANGANIBAN, Contributing Editor
September 11, 2019

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SAN Fracisco, Agusan del Sur--The centuries-old giant Toog tree of this town believed to be the tallest in the country will no longer be cut down after all.

Concerned residents, local officials and tree preservation advocates had reached a common ground in a meeting at the town hall yesterday that the 54-meter Philippine Rosewood (Petersianthus quadrialatus) will be spared from the cutting down order by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

DENR Caraga Regional Executive Director Felix Alicer had earlier gave a go-signal to cut down the tree due to the potential danger it poses to the lives of people, particularly commuters passing by the national highway. The giant Toog tree , already a landmark tourist spot of this town, is situated just a few meters of the Maharlika highway in Barangay Alegria.

“We will do everything possible to preserve the Toog tree. It’s everybody’s concern. This is a national heritage,” said Mayor Solomon Rufila as the meeting concluded.

Engineer Mauro Bravo Jr., an old-timer resident and a former District Engineer of the Department of Public Works and Highways, has led to move to defer the order as he pushed for another professional advise form an arborist to examine the condition of the towering tree estimated to be around 300 years old.

“Let’s make the tree healthy again. It is an important treasure for us long-time residents here,” he said.

Engineer Jaime Bernat, another retired DPWH district engineer, suggested to put up a reinforced concrete buttress with enough spece to breath inside to prevent what DENR experts claimed about its impending collapse.

“If we kill this treasure , then we lost our pride,” he said.

Engineer Marjun Ursos, a grandson of Vice Mayor Bernardino Ursos who is a structural engineer and planning head at the National Irrigation Administration, wanted mitigating engineering application to prevent the centuries-old Toog from cutting down.

“The Toog tree is a symbolism of the people of Agusan del Sur on how they care for the environment. If we dare to cut the giant tree then we can easily cut even smaller ones everywhere else,” Ursos said.

For his part, Davao City-based  Forester Jose Kanapi, vice president of Society of Filipino Foresters, Inc in Region 11, said their group made a firm stand to oppose the cutting down of the Toog tree citing a law on tree preservation.

Kanapi referred a comment from a professor of University of the Philippines-Los Baños who told him to relay his message to DENR that “the decision was horrible.” He asked not to name the professor.

Confronted with pressure, Forester Jerome Albia, DENR Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer based in Bunawan town, changed the tune saying the clearance issued by Alicer was not automatic since they would respect the outcome of the meeting.

He however said the move to put up a structure to support  the leaning Toog tree is a long-term solution but the need to treat the sick tree is immediate.

Albia suggested the pruning on the branches of the tree where some decay was also spotted.

Dennis Gilbero, science research specialist of DENR Forest and Wetland Research Development and Extension Center ( FWRDEC), made a presentation at the meeting on the results of an analysis of the Toog tree including its biomechanics which found a high potential hazard at 5.4 rating which is considered high risk of collapsing.

But Dr. Marcelino Pacho, a tree surgeon who once worked with DENR’s Environment and Natural Resources-Ecosystem Research and Development Bureau, had recommended for a treatment and rehabilitation of the giant Toog tree during her visit here on April 24.


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