LOS BAÑOS, LAGUNA, March 22, 2004 (STAR) By Rudy A. Fernandez — To cut or not to cut?

This is the question dividing some sectors of the Los Baños science community and other concerned sectors, who have to come up with a "Solomonic" decision involving a dao tree inside the campus of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB).

Coming on the heels of The STAR article entitled "RP’s forest tree species endangered," reports have been circulating here that UPLB authorities are planning to cut down the tree in front of the University Student Union building.

The university has justified the plan, saying that the dao tree is in danger of toppling down because its butt (basal area) is damaged and that it is already leaning toward the road.

UPLB officials are concerned that the tree, which is probably a century old, may fall anytime and harm pedestrians, particularly students.

But those trying to save the three argued that dao is one of the country’s threatened and vulnerable forest species, as defined in the 1980 International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red Data Guide Book.

Dao, scientifically named Dracontomelon dao, is a tall tree (35 to 40 meters) which can still be found in primary and secondary forests. Its wood can be used to make bancas, rafters, furniture, cabinets, crates, tables, boxes and match sticks.

Concern for the preservation of the dao tree in the UPLB campus has been expressed by some private individuals and conservationists.

Accordingly, Dr. Eugenio Castillo, the UPLB’s dean of student affairs, sought the technical advice of the UPLB College of Forestry and Natural Resources (CFNR).

The UPLB-CFNR dean recommended that the tree be cut based on the findings of a team that inspected it.

Lately, the office of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Elisea Gozun has received several text messages asking her to look into the "leaning dao tree" issue.

In response, Gozun instructed Celso Diaz, director of the UPLB-based DENR-Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB), and the Los Baños Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) to conduct inquiries into the proposed cutting of the tree and to assess the dao tree itself.

Based on the ERDB findings, the tree can still be preserved. To avoid the damaged tree from posing any danger, the agency gave the following recommendations:

• Part of the tree’s crown and the big branches can be pruned to lessen the weight of the upper portion of the tree.

• A propping structure can be placed at the midsection of the main stem of the tree to strengthen its position and to reduce the tree’s tendency to lean toward the road and finally, prevent it from falling down.

• Rehabilitation measures to take care of the decayed lower butt portion of the tree.

"At this juncture, we can urge the UPLB to exhaust all possible means to preserve the seemingly beleaguered dao tree. The dao tree, according to estimates of ERDB, can be a century old. Its preservation will be a significant contribution of the UPLB in managing our natural heritage. If the UPLB can save it, the dao tree can remain as one of the trees that can give aesthetic value to the UPLB campus landscape," the ERDB said.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved