August 3
, 2004  (MALAYA) The planned felling of a century old "dao" (Dracontomelon dao) tree at the University of the Philippines-Los Baņos (UPLB) compound has been rejected by Environment Secretary Elisea G. Gozun, who turned down the request of UPLB Chancellor Wilfredo M. David. David said the tree poses "imminent danger on lives and properties."

Her decision came after a technical conference held at the UPLB last July 15 attended by UPLB authorities, DENR officials led by Undersecretary Rolando Metin and concerned alumni and students.

Citing the tree's importance to UPLB's heritage, Gozun opted to adopt a four-point solution to preserve the tree while addressing the concerns on public safety by prunning the tree to make it less top-heavy and reduce the danger of collapse.

"This decision is brought about by the historical and heritage significance of the tree, which is even made more so by the nearing of the centennial foundation anniversary of UPLB in 2008," Gozun said in her letter to David.

Fondly called by students the "leaning tower," the tree polarized the academic community after UPLB authorities announced last March that they were planning to cut down the tree for fear it might collapse on students and cause damage to nearby property. The tree is situated in front of the Student Union (SU) building near the school's sports ground.

At the same time, Gozun requested MERALCO's chairman and chief executive officer Manuel Lopez to provide prunning equipment for the effort in response to David's March 22 letter citing that Gozun's recommendation to prune the crown was "currently beyond the capability of the university facility."

Gozun likewise ordered the placing of appropriate warning signages near the tree and installation of a support structure at the mid section of the tree's main stem to keep the tree from falling and arrest the tendency of the tree to lean further towards the road.

She also requested UPLB authorities to redesign the frontage of the SU building to give space for the tree's roots.

The tree stands 20 meters tall with a circumference at breast height of about 5.5 meters. Its trunk is only a meter away from an asphalted road fronting the SU building. A large portion of its root system is covered with concrete to which experts attribute partly the tree's poor aging that resulted in its leaning posture.

Gozun earlier ordered DENR's Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB) to conduct technical assessment on the tree. Findings by ERDB, which also hold office inside UPLB said that despite its age, the tree appeared to be healthy without any sign of disease or pest attack.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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