Several residents of San Francisco, Agusan del Sur are hurrying to have their photos taken with the landmark Philippine Rosewood or Toog tree in the municipality. Old pictures and memories are also resurfacing.
The iconic tree, which is estimated to be 300 years old, was scheduled to be cut on August 7. This isn’t the first time. Last year, there was also an attempt at cutting the tree as recommended by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. However, concerned residents and local officials reached the decision to keep the tree and preserve it.
Despite it being a local attraction and eco-tourism landmark, staying near the Toog tree is prohibited. As stated on the warning sign, the Toog tree’s limbs may fall anytime. There’s also fear that the Toog tree poses a hazard to the residences near it and motorists using the Agusan del Sur-Surigao del Sur highway as the tree’s decay, caused by termite and fungi infections, is advancing.
Based on the biomechanical and structural analysis of DENR’s Forest and Wetland Research Development and Extension Center in Bislig City, the tree’s hazard rating is at 5.4, which is a high-potential rate according to experts. DENR’s findings led the Sangguniang Bayan to pass Resolution No. 127 on June 15, 2020 that approves the cutting of the Toog tree.
What Else Could Have Been Done?
Some concerned citizens appealed for the suspension of the cutting of the Centennial Toog tree. Before the scheduled cutting, they requested for a public consultation meeting where engineers could present ways that might help preserve the Toog tree, which is part of the community’s heritage, without endangering lives.
One of the suggestions was to build a retrofitting structure around the tree that would also serve as an elevated sightseeing deck. Tree scientists consulted before said that the Toog tree could still be treated and rehabilitated. The tree’s branches could be pruned, its cavities cleaned with fungicide, and the hole on its roots filled with cement to reinforce it.
What Will Happen to the Toog Tree?
The decision arrived at after the consultation meeting is salvage cutting. About 30 meters of the tree’s lower trunk will be kept as a landmark.
Pictures are from Chen Cabanos.