The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) finally concluded the highly contested national highway road widening project along Visayas State University (VSU) Main Campus earlier this July 2020.

The project initially garnered negative reactions among the VSU community since the project originally involved the cutting of numerous trees thriving along the highway. Several of the trees were around fifty years old and the thick, green canopy from these trees served as an iconic passageway to one of the country’s ‘dark green’ universities. 

A group of existing and retired VSU professors initiated the Save the Trees signature campaign in response to this issue, which gained massive support from VSU administration and students.

Former VSU President Paciencia P. Milan spearheaded an appeal to the DPWH and presented an alternative plan to the road widening project. Dr. Edgardo E. Tulin, current VSU President, also rallied the VSU administration to follow the alternative plan. This was then supported and endorsed by both the former Mayor of Baybay City, Mayor Carmen L. Cari and the then 5th District of Leyte Representative, now Baybay City Mayor Jose Carlos L. Cari.

The DPWH ultimately agreed and followed VSU’s alternative plan to save the trees which involved the construction of a separate road on the west side of the previously existing highway. The new road is now being used for southbound traffic while the previously existing road is being used for the northbound route.

The separate highway was built at the point right after the Lago-Lago bridge in Brgy. Guadalupe, in front of the Holy Spirit Parish. This new road continued all the way through the VSU market and the university’s main entrance until it merged back to a four-lane highway before the Calbiga-a bridge in Brgy. Pangasugan.

The space between the two roads created a parallel urban ‘island’ where the stretch of decades-old trees along VSU is now standing.

While a handful of trees were still sacrificed during this road widening project, they were kept to a minimum number to make way only for the start and ending points of the highway split. To compensate for the lost trees, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) assured that 100 tree seedlings will be planted for every tree that was cut down in this particular project. They even promised to provide additional funds to VSU for their planting and maintenance for three years.

In a message, VSU President Edgardo E. Tulin expressed the commitment of his administration to protect the environment by preserving and conserving our natural resources aligned with the very vision of the university.

“We successfully saved our trees on our own highway. This is a great feat in terms of protecting, conserving and preserving our environment. I’m hopeful that this will inspire other movements and groups to never sacrifice our trees for the sake of continued development. There are innovative ways we can push for development while we also take care of our natural resources and that should be our way forward,” the VSU President said.