Hundreds of almost century-old trees are set to be cut down to make way for wider roads in the coastal town, which is among the busiest and richest in the province.
Angry locals have questioned the government’s road widening projects. An online petition has been launched to stop the tree-cutting. Others have taken to the streets.
“Bulanenos should unite now to save the trees that have yet to be cut down by the Department of Public Works and Highways,” a Change.org petition read.
Bulan resident Ramil Agne, who posted the petition, told Yahoo Philippines that the DPWH has temporarily stopped the cutting of trees, pending a consultation.
He noted that the move came too late, however, as about 185 have already been cut from May 14 to 21. A total of 235 trees would be cut for the road work.
Officials have claimed that the roadside had to be cleared of trees to expand the highway to 20 meters from 15 meters, by adding 2.5 meters to each side.
“The traffic volume on our highway does not warrant a road widening project,” Agne said. He added that the 5-meter expansion “is not enough to call progress versus cutting trees.”
Many residents have also wondered why the road will be expanded when the local airport it leads to has been idle for decades. DPWH has not responded to requests for comment.
“I don’t want the trees to be cut down for the sake of useless road widening project. Road widening project will benefit only few people specially in terms of corruption,” said Andrew Zuniga, who signed the petition.
A “selfie campaign” has also been launched against the project, with netizens posting photos of themselves holding up appeals to save the town’s “tree tunnel.”
Bulan’s case is the latest in what netizens have taken to calling a tree-cutting rampage by the DPWH, most of them tagged unnecessary by the areas’ locals.
Earlier this month, locals in Los Banos, Laguna, protested the cutting of trees for a widening project covering a 5.6-kilometer stretch of road near Mt. Makiling.
Local officials in Iloilo City have meanwhile asked the DPWH to explain why so-called “heritage trees” have been cut down along the city’s General Luna highway.
In Naga City, the local government is also leading efforts against a plan to cut down at least 650 trees along the Maharlika Highway in Camarines Sur province.
“Thousands of trees all over the Philippines, many of them century-old, have been cut for road widening… Many more trees face the same fate,” a separate Change.org petition said.
The petition, posted by Ivan Henares, called on the DPWH and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to stop cutting trees and review the policy.
“This review should provide a mechanism for genuine public consultation and a detailed scientific assessment the cutting of trees may have on the environment,” Henares said.