“Cut the trees and I will cut your heads”

This is the stern warning dished out last week by Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte against those planning to cut down hundreds of 20-year-old trees lining the Dacudao Avenue main sewage drain in Agdao district, when the canal is repaired and rehabilitated.

Duterte’s warning was specifically directed at City Engineers Office (CEO) chief Roland Reyes and Drainage Management Unit (DMU) head retired Army colonel Yusof Jimlani.

The controversy over the trees was sparked by Jimlani’s announcement the trees would have to go during repair and rehabilitation of the Dacudao main drain that is fed by run-off water from Bajada, Barrio Obrero and Buhangin.

Jimlani said the CEO plans to enlarge the canal to help mitigate flooding problem. He said the roots of the trees also had destroyed rip-rap of the old canal and they would have to go when the main drain is rehabilitated.

“You go to him and tell him to see me,” Duterte last week told media who sought his reaction to the plan to cut down the trees. He was referring to Jimlani.

Tell them not to cut the trees or I will cut their heads, he said.

If the brains behind the cutting of trees thought about rehabilitation (of the Dacudao main drain), there are other better ways to do it without putting the environment in danger, Duterte said.

He said he himself would decide on the fate of the trees in view of the Dacudao main drain rehabilitation, after he would have conducted an ocular inspection.

Liza Madrazo, City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CityENRO) officer also opposed the cutting saying it was ironic that it came at a time when Mindanaoans are planting millions of trees.

On October 29, thousands of Mindanaoans in one hour planted more than 3 million trees under the TreeVolution project of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). Hundreds of Dabawenyos joined the program and trooped to hinterland areas to plant.

Duterte, in his Gikan sa Masa Para sa Masa television program on ABS/CBN on Sunday, October 5, however, mellowed down on his threat to shoot those who would cut the trees.

But he stood pat on his position the trees, planted in the early 90s after the Dacudao main drain was constructed, should not be left standing touched.

He said he would gather the CEO, CityEnro and DMU to find a win-win solution.

Duterte said focus of discussion should be the need to rehabilitate the Dacudao main drain to enhance its capacity and leaving the trees untouched to help the environment and provide shade.

But at the outset, Duterte said he is willing to spend more on thicker and more expensive rip-rapping works that could not be destroyed by the roots of the trees if that is the way to preserve the old trees.

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