TACLOBAN CITY – Replacing trees that will be cut by the 222-kilometer United States-funded road upgrading project in Samar Island will go full swing in the next few months.

Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Regional Executive Director Leonardo Sibbaluca said seedlings are now ready for planting in different sites of Samar and Eastern Samar provinces. “We have already identified specific upland areas where we could plant starting this month. To attain higher survival rate, we have to wait for full rainy season to ensure there is enough water supply for new plants,” Sibbaluca told reporters.

Government agencies and Millennium Challenge Account-Philippine launched recently in Hernani, Eastern Samar the tree replacement program which will mobilize residents in planting and taking care of trees within the road project connecting Samar and Eastern Samar towns. The project, which aims to replace 100 trees in every single tree cut within the road right of way of the infrastructure project, is a partnership of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the DENR.

“As of end of June 3,953 trees have been cut so far along roadsides due to expansion. Logs were turned over to DENR and some were donated to local government units and public schools for the reconstruction of structures damaged by Yolanda,” said DPWH Regional Director Rolando Asis. The DPWH is still finalizing budget requirement for the entire tree replacement program. The fund will be transferred to DENR for management of nurseries and plantation. DSWD’s role is to organize planters from the list of conditional cash transfer beneficiaries.

Earlier, officials identified at least 7,739 affected trees in the road upgrading project in Samar Island in three contract packages (CP). The first segment, will affect 236 trees. This segment covers a 16.3-kilometer road in Paranas, Samar as well as the replacement of Tabucan Bridge. Some 3,985 trees will be for CP 2, the largest in terms of value as it covers the reconstruction of five bridges, restoration of 20 bridges, and the construction of drainage structures, slope stability measures, and of road safety measures Hinabangan, Samar to Sulat in Eastern Samar.  Of the total trees affected in the biggest road segment, 1,417 are within the Samar Island Natural Park.
CP 3, which is 40% complete, will entail the cutting of 2,029 trees. This segment covers 64.58 kilometers and the replacement of six bridges from the town boundary of San Julian and Sulat to Balangkayan and Llorente, all in Eastern Samar.

CP4 with 1,489 trees tagged for removal cuts through 77.5 kilometers of road in the towns of Llorente, Hernani, General McArthur, Quinapondan, Salcedo, Mercedes, and Guiuan, all in Eastern Samar. The US-funded $214.4-million Secondary National Roads Development Project (SNRDP) in Samar Island started on October 2012 and will be completed on April 2016. (SARWELL Q.MENIANO)