The city government is eyeing to cut down over a million exotic trees planted around the Irawan watershed through the years under the Pista Y Ang Kagueban celebrations and replace them with indigenous species.

Atty. Carlo Gomez, City Environment and Natural Resources (ENRO) chief, said the trees, mainly mahogany and gmelina, are “invasive” species that cause more harm to the watershed.

“They are very invasive, they do not allow other species to grow with them,” Gomez said during the 29th Pista Y Ang Kagueban in Sitio Impapay, Brgy. Irawan.

Gomez added they already have an ongoing tree replacement program and are “gaining ground” by planting more local or indigenous species.

“Meron tayong ongoing tree replacement program. ‘Yong mga past na Kagueban natin, maling species ‘yong naitanim natin — mahogany at saka gemelina.

Sa ngayon we cannot say the exact percentage ng [proper species of trees planted here versus those invasive ones], pero ang puwede kong masabi diyan is we are gaining ground. We are gaining in numbers pagdating doon [sa pagtatanim ng mga tamang species], kasi nga agresibo tayo,” he said.

He said they are only waiting for the “approval and tree-cutting permit” from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) before they could start the operations.

He said the invasive tree species are mahogany and gmelina species because they absorb plenty of water that can cause depletion of the city’s main water source, the Campo Uno dam.

This has led to a major depletion during this year’s summer season that caused a water crisis and forced a declaration of a state of calamity over the city, he pointed out.

“Invasive in the sense na ‘yong mga species na ito they do not allow other tree species to grow with them. Invasive din in a sense na even ‘yong dahon niya has the character na hindi puwedeng mag-degrade, di siya nagko-compose so in that sense nagiging acidic ‘yong type nong dahoon niya. So ‘pag hindi siya na-compose, hindi siya puwedeng maging pagkain ng mga uod, in that sense also, hindi niya nako-condition ‘yong soil. Hindi nabubulok ‘yong mahogany,” Gomez added.

During this year’s edition of the Pista Y Ang Kagueban, he said they will plant Ipil, Tanabag, Kamagong, white and red Nato, and fruit trees.

Gomez said these trees do not need large amounts of water, deeply-rooted that prevent soil erosion, and have the ability to hold water.

Meanwhile, Gomez said he cannot speak on behalf of the organizers and the species they planted in the watershed area.

“We already requested DENR for strategic and systematic cutting or removal ng mga iyan dito sa Irawan, inaantay na lang natin ‘yong permit… we will utilize it. With our agreement with Deparment of Education din, so ang plano ni Mayor Lucilo Bayron diyan as we suggested, gagawing mga lamesa sa classrooms for the city para hindi naman sayang. Tapos [ganoon na din] ‘yong mga sectors ng community na kailangan din ng ganiyan,” he said.