Saturday, May 5, 2012

altomonte: Every breath you take

altomonte: Every breath you take: As the vendor was putting the bundles of pechay and watercress I bought in plastic bags at the market a few days ago, I told her: “Manang, h...

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


19 April 2012

Department of Interior and Local Government

Dear Mr. Secretary:

Warmest greetings of peace.

We, the lawyers of Project Save 182 Movement which is campaigning for environmental justice and good governance and is questioning the government actions pertaining to the expansion of SM Baguio and the cutting/balling of 182 trees on Luneta Hill, regret to inform you that the ocular inspection that was conducted at our behest did not proceed as we hoped.

There was no government agency that supervised the inspection. Although a DILG representative was in attendance, she clarified more than once that she received no instructions from your agency other than to be present during the activity. No one took down notes or officially recorded what transpired. We wanted to register several manifestations but could not do so. SM practically was in charge. In fact, at the start, it attempted to determine who may join the inspection. The media complained because SM prepared a list of who may be allowed. We had to argue that SM, like Project Save 182, was only a participant and that DILG was taking the lead. Eventually, SM had to relent and the banned media people were able to join the inspecting team. During the whole time, it was obvious that SM was operating on the assumption that it was on top of the activity- an assertion we objected to more than once. It was as if the government threw us into the enemy lair and then left us there. Thankfully PS 182 was vigilant enough to repel every attempt by SM to take control.

Project Save 182 and the media noted several violations by SM. Tree-balling was not done properly. There were 13 fully grown-pine trees with exposed roots, obviously ready for balling but which, according to independent experts, are now as good as dead. If the alnus trees were not cut as claimed by SM, they were cruelly uprooted because the site from where they were removed bore relatively small, shallow holes. We doubt whether the transferred alnus trees were all balled. We suspect they were cut and planted to create the semblance of balling. Certain representatives of PS 182 wanted to actually check if the transplanted trees, some of which absolutely had no leaves, had roots at all.

We are appalled that the DENR has brazenly expressed insensitivity to the environment and has taken every opportunity to defend SM’s actions. Although some DENR employees have unofficially expressed that SM balled the wrong way and that the trees would all die, in their official pronouncements, they declared that the earthballing by SM has so far been successful.

Additionally, while SM, backed by the DENR, publicly claimed that only 41 trees were removed, the truth is that there were 49 "removed trees" and 13 fully grown pine trees have been readied, albeit improperly, for balling. We do not accept as truth allegations from DENR insiders that the contractor to do the earthballing for SM is the dummy of a very highly placed DENR Official but we wonder why certain DENR officials are pursuing SM’s cause with suspicious zeal.

It can be recalled that PS 182 asked for the suspension of the dialogue arguing that it can only happen under an atmosphere of mutual trust. We were candid about our distrust of SM and the government offices who are major players in the controversy. We asked that an ocular inspection be conducted for us to verify SM claims about activities pertaining to the trees we want to protect and if the inspection would prove that SM has been forthright all along, the dialogue would proceed.

As long as DENR Sec. Ramon Paje and his staff in cahoots with SM deliberately misinform us and the public, we cannot have a meaningful dialogue. In view of this, we regret to inform you that Project Save 182 whose member organizations and individuals we represent will no longer be a party to any dialogue with SM and the DENR. We opt to pursue the cases we filed in court. We truly appreciate and are grateful for your effort to mediate between the parties, despite the eventual unfortunate outcome. We would also like to acknowledge your major role in making ocular inspection possible. We asked the court for this and so far got no response. Thus, even if your effort to mediate failed, we substantially gained from it.

We in Project Save 182 continue to hope that the “matuwid na daan” will not be mere rhetoric of officials of the Aquino government. We will continue to resist corporate take-over of the government which is sure to happen as long as officials like Sec. Paje are allowed to continue to bow to corporate dictates.

Very truly yours,

For the National Union of Peoples Lawyers:





by Cheryl Daytec

The mother of my grade-schooler daughter's SPED classmate posted today a photo album of school children in SM. Whoa...there are pictures of my little girl with her classmates and teacher. The moment I got home, I had a conversation with the young one.

Mom: Gawani, you did not tell Mommy you went to SM. I saw your pictures on Miguel's mom's Facebook wall. I saw you and your best friend Mary France riding on a fake animal. You both looked pretty. (Momentary pause) Oh, by the way, when did you go there?

Gawani: Oh, last week. (Looking guilty) Mommy, I am sorry I did not tell you we had a field trip there. I was afraid you would get angry.

Mom: What made you think that?

Gawani: Because we are not supposed to be going to SM. You told me.

Mom: And why should we not go to SM?

Gawani: Because the owner is greedy. He wants to kill 182 trees. But I had to go because the class decided to go. I was afraid to tell Teacher we should not go there.

Should I be concerned that this human being who is barely out of the crib kept something from me, or should I be happy that she had guilty feelings about going to SM (which I would like to think means she realizes there is something wrong about it)?

By the way, this is the girl who always asks waiters in restaurants if the milk being served is a Nestle product or not before she orders. Of course, the milk she drinks must be non-Nestle. ("Why again should we not buy Nestle ice cream or milk products, Gawani?" "Because it is like drinking or eating human blood.")

Did I brainwash her? No. I am a believer in this: We have to teach them young. This is a paraphrase of that biblical passage: "Train up a child in the way s/he should go, and when s/he is old, s/he will not depart from it."

Gawani (aka Kathlea Francynn Gawani Yangot) as "Kathlea Yangot" in the petition to stop SM from cutting/earthballing 182 trees.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The night the trees on Luneta Hill fell

We received the news moments before the gathering we scheduled at the U.P. Baguio auditorium yesterday afternoon. “TEPO extended until after the case is resolved.” The text message came from a member of the movement’s legal team, Atty. Chris Donaal. 

There were only around six of us at the time, waiting for the other members of the movement to arrive, but our shouts of joy filled up the still empty hall. It is a temporary victory, but a victory nonetheless. I have said it before, for every day that those trees stay alive is already a vitory for the city. Whatever remains of the 182 trees since SM City Baguio, a like a thief in the night, proceeded to begin the massacre under cover of darkness and hidden behind walls, on the night of April 9, 2012, despite the issuance of a Temporary Environmental Protection Order by the court. Moments before receiving the message from Donaal, we were already contemplating what to do in case we lose this struggle. 

You can’t blame us, almost all of our government institutions have turned their backs on the people and their opposition to the rape of their home’s natural environment. Despite the issuance of a 72-day stay of the execution of trees by the court, SM City Baguio, through devious legal maneuverings, tried to skirt the law claiming that the TEPO must be served to their lawyers in Manila and not here in Baguio. This meant, for them, that “officially,” they have not received the order and therefore it doesn’t exist and that they can go on with their earthablling activities on Luneta Hill. 

That night, trees started falling on Luneta Hill. Some young members of the movement went to the Mayor’s residence to plead our case with him – his hands are tied, was essentially his reply. The concerned City Council committee, and the councilors who signed their report,have showed their true color when it all but directly endorsed SM City Baguio’s expansion project. 

And when we begged the police that same evening to do help enforce the court order, they watched on the sidelines as more than 50 security guards and personnel of SM City Baguio surrounded the roughly one dozen of us who were there to try to stop the crime being committed against the environment, against Baguio. They were there, around 10 or so of them, on the other side of Luneta Road, watching, as guards shoved and pushed us around. This is the same police force that can form a human barricade of police officers complete with shields and truncheons ready to protect SM City Baguio whenever we stage a rally on Luneta Hill. This is the same police personnel whose salaries the people’s taxes pay for. And this is what it’s all about – clearly, it’s not just about the 182 trees on Luneta Hill, and even if it were so, so what? 

See, those trees, just like the Jadewell contract and the concrete pine tree, represent all that is wrong in our society, they uncovered a rotten political system that is the true cause of all our woes. They showed us what caused the garbage slide in Irisan, the pollution that envelope Baguio, the slow decay of this beautiful city, the sorry state of our educational system, the poverty all around us. Congratulations, Baguio, on this temporary victory. 

It’s not over yet...

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Greenwashing and SM City Baguio

“SM City Baguio’s green design is an example of a development project that does not only look on the economic aspect of development which will also be a big support in the tourism industry in the locality for it will offer something new in the city, It is also a development putting much into consideration the protection of the environment which some developers in the city of Baguio failed to do. The SM expansion design will speak for itself.”

The above paragraph was part of an opinion column published in a local daily last February 16, 2012 ( I agree with the last sentence – that the SM expansion design speaks for itself, and what it spoke of were gross ignorance, corporate greed and utter disregard for the community’s sensibility and the city’s heritage. So did the article, and what it spoke of was its failure as a PR effort.

First, a “Green Building,” according to Wikipedia, refers to a structure and using process that is environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building's life-cycle: from siting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and demolition. With just the first consideration, SM City Baguio’s expansion plan already fails miserably. Their chosen site is also the site of 182 living trees that already provide breathable air in the already heavily polluted Central Business District.

The expansion’s design also shows us that they’re not really building “on” Luneta Hill, they’re practically obliterating half of the hill to accommodate their new building. The hill that gave birth to Baguio as a city will be defaced, almost eradicated from the face of the earth.

The article also raved about the much ballyhooed roof garden that SM City Baguio plans to install on their new structure, just like the one they have at SM City North Edsa, as if this could really get even near what the existing trees in the area have been providing the community for decades: clean air, protection from harsh weather conditions and aesthetic value. Will their roof provide for soil that’s 20 feet deep or more for real trees to grow on it? And the “landscaping” at the roof garden of SM City North Edsa constantly changes, which tells us that either plants there die or are merely rented and need to be replaced every now and then.

And in an attempt to address the heritage issue, the article also waxed pathetic about the expansion’s design that incorporated “the concept of rice terraces which is part of the history of the region.” Aw, come on.

Fact is, from any angle, SM City Baguio’s expansion cannot be justified given the impact it would have on the environment, the welfare of the community and the heritage of the city. It’s also shocking that two faculty members of the University of the Cordilleras have all but sanctified the expansion project as if it’s the Holy Grail of green architecture, when it is their campus that will be the first to suffer the consequences should any, God forbid, natural disaster is triggered by the mass murder of trees and the carving of that hill.

SM City Baguio has also been trumpeting the 2,000 saplings they have planted in the last few years and the 50,000 saplings they promise to plant to replace the ones they plan to “earthball.” I wonder though how many of those 2,000 saplings they’ve planted have actually grown into mature trees. I wonder if they’ve ever gone back to check on those saplings at all. That’s the thing about these photo ops masquerading as tree planting activities – they have their pictures taken holding a sapling, and they believe they just saved the world.

And if they can prove that their efforts in the past have indeed resulted in full grown trees today, I congratulate them, but it still does not justify killing those trees in the name of crass commercialism and heartless capitalism. It’s like a public official saying he should be allowed to steal from government since he’s built overpasses and waiting sheds in the past. Or a murderer claiming the he should be allowed to kill at will since he's also a father who's sired a child.

I do read SM City Baguio’s pronouncements about their planned expansion project, hoping to see a glimmer of any good that could come out of it. Alas, I see none. They’ll have to do better than a sad attempt to brainwash, or greenwash as environmentalists call it, the community.

Make no mistake, there’s hardly any real green about SM City Baguio’s expansion plan.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

We shall remain

Nothing else could’ve painted a better picture of a modern day battle between David and Goliath: On the one hand are a handful of protesters, a group of less than a hundred composed mostly of young men and women barely out of their teens, armed only with their convictions written on flimsy recycled cardboards . On the other hand, a phalanx of shielded and armed policemen and private security guards, preventing the protesters from marching on to Luneta Road, a public road that SM City Baguio treats like its own private driveway.

“The permit was revoked,” this was what the protesters were told. It cannot be independently confirmed if it was indeed the Baguio Police Office Chief or the Mayor’s Office which revoked the permit, but that was the justification given by the guardians of SM City Baguio’s interests in preventing the protesters from entering Luneta Road.

In one conversation with PSupt. James Allan Logan, Chief of the Traffic Management Division, he tried to clarify that they were not barricading Luneta Road to protect SM City Baguio, but to prevent a violent confrontation between the mall and the protesters. We had to remind him that, instead of having line of policemen facing the protesters, perhaps it would make more sense to have them facing the other way – we are simply trying to save the lives of 182 trees, SM City Baguio is the one threatening to kill them. If there’s any real threat of violence, it’s plain to see where it could come from.

We have always conducted our public demonstrations peacefully from day one. The phenomenal January 20, 2012 rally, the biggest the city has ever seen in recent history, had the protesters peacefully marching down Session Road to People’s Park, before proceeding to the rotunda at the top of Session Road simply to play gongs, sing songs and apologize to motorists for the inconvenience (while at the same time begging them to honk their horns as a show of support).

We also had what we called a Jericho Walk, a communal Valentine’s date attended by children and their parents, teachers, students, nuns, artists and other candle-bearing like-hearted souls peacefully walking around Luneta Hill and keeping to the sidewalk to avoid inconveniencing motorists. A confrontation only occurred when SM City Baguio’s security guards barricaded the sidewalk leading up to Luneta Road, forcing the group to walk along the road instead.

When we applied for another rally permit for March 10, 2012, both BCPO Chief David Lacdan and City Administrator signed it without ado. But Mr. Logan signed it with a recommendation that we do not pass Luneta Road. We asked him why, and we were told that the traffic division is just concerned about the traffic jam the rally might cause. Only when we stood our ground that Luneta Road is a public road that he relented. That rally, as in the previous ones, went on peacefully.

But on March 23, even with the permit that all three signatories signed, the protesters were prevented from entering Luneta Road. Up on Luneta Hill, SM City Baguio has set up a stage for some event complete the fancy dancing lights and ear-blasting music (“who let the dogs out,” played on the speakers, a pat on the back of SM City Baguio’s spinmeisters). The reason, the group was told, for the revocation was because the group “overstayed” the last time we were allowed to march along Luneta Road. The torch and placard bearing few were surrounded by policemen, intimidating in their uniforms and gear. The group peacefully left and gathered at the mini park fronting the post office.

Our city officials must understand that nobody in the movement now known as Save 182 is in this for any direct personal gain. We are here because we love our city. We are here because we know that we inherited a beautiful city from those who came before us, and we only want to do all we can to be able to pass on a beautiful Baguio to the next generation. We will not be threatened, we will not be intimidated. Mr. Henry Sy and his family can live without this expansion project, the same cannot be said of Baguio without the trees.

On March 31, 2012, from 4:00pm onwards, Save 182 joins the Cordillera Global Network at the corner of Mabini Street and Session Road in its observance of Earth Hour.

In the struggle to fight for the welfare of the greater majority against corporate greed, in our journey towards a better city, in our efforts to preserve the dignity and beauty of the City of Pines, we, of the Save 182 movement, shall remain.

Friday, March 16, 2012

An Open Letter To Henry Sy

Mr. Henry Sy:

As the lawyers representing your interests in Baguio claimed, there is no legal impediment at the moment that could stop your expansion plan on Luneta Hill, and that you can start digging out those trees any time now. But before you order your people to start the engines of your back hoes and bulldozers, I hope this letter gets to you or anybody in your corporate empire.

You never lived in Baguio, and to you, it is simply an investment site. I don’t even remember hearing about you visiting the city in person, though I assume that you have. You too, like almost anyone who has come to visit this highland paradise through the years, must have been captivated by the beauty of the city.

But to the more than 400,000 people who reside in Baguio, this is home. While some of us had reservations about your entry into our home a decade ago, our doors were opened to let you in. Before that, Luneta Hill served as a window to the city’s glorious past. It had what remained of the beautiful and much-loved Pines Hotel, consumed by fire in the mid-80’s. But the towering pine trees, among the things Baguio has been known and loved for, survived that fire. They would eventually survive the devastating earthquake of 1990 too, and continue to endure despite the rapid urbanization of Baguio in the years that followed. Before your concrete building obliterated the beautiful skyline of the city, the hill served as a reminder to the people of the founding fathers’ vision for Baguio: a city that is in harmony with its natural environment.

Your lawyers, among whom is Sigfrid Fortun, also known as the defender of accused mass murderers, the Ampatuans, stated that there really is no heritage to speak of, as old photos of the hill seem to show it barren and treeless. Let me tell you a story.

When the Americans first surveyed what was then known as Kafagway in preparation for its transformation into hill station, the first thing that caught their attention was this hill where your mall stands now. Living there was a German anthropologist, Otto Scheerer, who bought the property from the Cariños, who owned much of Kafagway. The Insular Government then bought the property from Scheerer and on it built a small sanitarium. When people started coming in droves because of the claimed miraculous air of Baguio that immediately healed patients who came here to get well, they proceeded to beautify the area with trees and flowering plants. It can be said then that the birth of Baguio as a city began right there on Luneta Hill.

See, Mr. Sy, this is part of the heritage we speak of. It’s not only about the trees, but the hill itself. Your original structure already ate up half of that hill, and judging from the published design for your mall’s expansion, it will now totally be forever wiped out. You are essentially erasing a huge part of the city’s historical heritage.

Your lawyers also belittled the value of the trees there now, saying that they’re really not that old anyway, as if the killing of younger trees makes the deed much less immoral. But for your information and your lawyers' too, the trees that your aborted plan to build a condominium complex next to the Baguio Convention Center have been there for more than 20 years, and most of them are just half the size of the trees on Luneta Hill today. Pine trees don’t grow overnight, so your lawyers desperate attempt to belittle the people’s protestations against your plan is simply that: desperate.

We live in desperate times. Global warming and its adverse effects are upon us. Common people like us can only do so much to help heal the planet, or at least not worsen our mother’s ailment. You, on the other hand, with your unbelievable wealth and resources, can have a much bigger impact on the environment – for better or worse. Wouldn’t you want to be remembered as the great man with a conscience rather than the man who scarred this beautiful city and changed its face forever?

We want those 182 trees to live. Nay, we need those 182 trees to live and to be able to live our lives. We wouldn’t want to have to tell our children, and later their children’s children, that you were a man that should in no way be emulated; that you were that man who put his own interest ahead of that of hundreds of thousands; that you were the epitome of selfishness and greed.

It’s now all up to you, Mr. Henry Sy.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

An open letter (with all due respect)

To The Members of the Sangguniang Panglunsod, City of Baguio:

First of all, we thank you for the opportunity to be heard not only by your Honors, but also by the members of the community who cared enough to witness and participate in the two-day public hearing that the City Council conducted. But while we were promised to be given the chance to respond to SM City Baguio’s rebuttal during the second day, we regret that the promise was not delivered due to “overtime cost” concerns (though we believe that this is a critical issue that justifies whatever little money it will cost the City Council).

With that, allow me then to respond to some of the concerns raised and questions posed by some of the members of the council here instead:


While it is true that it was the City Buildings and Architecture Office (CBAO) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources who issued the building and tree-cutting permits, respectively, and thus are the agencies that can revoke the same, we are not barking at the wrong tree by bringing the issue to the attention of both the Mayor’s Office and the Baguio City Council. This issue goes way beyond the building and tree-cutting permits issued. This is about the welfare of the greater majority being compromised for the benefit of a single corporate entity. The impending death of the 182 trees on Luneta Hill also threatens to forever change the face of Baguio City, and its historical heritage as the City of Pines, a heritage that does not only belong to Baguio but to the whole country, Baguio being the Summer Capital of the Philippines.

Having said that, we cannot and we will not accept some of our elected officials’ pronouncements that they cannot do anything to address the issue. You were elected by the people, your power emanates from the people and it is your responsibility to protect the welfare of the people. Instead of exhausting all means to justify your helplessness on the issue, we plead that you exert the same amount of effort in finding ways to address it.

We pay our taxes in Baguio, unlike SM City Baguio. We are the people you swore to protect, and that is why we came before you.


We are not singling out SM City Baguio, as insinuated by at least two councillors during the hearing. But the urgency of the matter forced us to focus all our efforts to prevent the murder of the 182 trees on Luneta Hill, one of the few remaining forest covers in Baguio’s central business district, that will result in irreversible adverse consequences. We believe that whatever remains of Baguio’s natural environment should be protected and that all development initiatives in the city must be sustainable, which we believe SM City Baguio’s expansion plan is not.

Lastly, “WHY ONLY NOW?”

At the public hearing, the Hon. Nicasio Palaganas addressed this question to anybody belonging to the groups several protesting SM City Baguio’s expansion plan: “What have you done during the last two years about the environment? And why are you only coming out now?”

I answered his question honestly, “personally, nothing.” With presiding officer, the Hon. Erdolfo Balajadia, constantly reminding the protesters to keep their replies brief, I was not able to expound on my reply. I shall do so here, now.

I am an artist and a Baguio resident for the past 16 years. Three of my children were born here. As an artist and a resident of Baguio, I have always endeavoured to give back to the city that I now call home. I have done all I can as a theatre artist to present relevant local social, cultural, historical and environmental issues in all of my works.

I was there when the community took the streets in the late 90’s to protest the development of Camp John Hay. I was there too when the community protested to take the city’s streets back from the tyrannical clutches of Jadewell. I have been the subject of threats and sanctions because of my advocacies as an artist and a columnist for a local paper.

These are what I have done, and these are what I can do.

I asked the Hon. Nicasio Palaganas, “I throw back the question at you, sir, what have you done?” To which he replied, “I refuse to answer that question.”

With all due respect, sir, you CANNOT refuse to answer that question for you are an elected official and you owe it to the people to inform them of your actions while in office. The office, the position you hold is a public trust. It is not about power, sir, it is about responsibility. While we, the protesters, have to contend with living our lives, earning a living, while at the same time doing all we can to protect the welfare of our fellow citizens, you on the other hand have the privilege of serving the city and its people and get paid a salary in the process. And it is our taxes that you get to bring home in that envelope twice a month.

You simply don’t have the right to refuse to answer to the people.

You asked, “why only now?” The question is irrelevant. What’s important is we, the people, are here, right now, doing all we can to do what we believe is right. We have neither financial might nor political clout or influence. The only thing we do have is our unbending principles - which we are willing to defend, and that no amount of money, political pressure or vicious threats can bend.

We are doing something about it now. As a public servant, when will you?

With all due respect.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Yesterday, today, tomorrow

The first half hour of the public hearing last Monday was spent watching and listening to what SM had to say. I couldn’t help but remember Daniel Burnham’s warning that “unless early preventive measures are taken, the misdirected initiative of energetic lumbermen will soon cause the destruction of this beautiful scenery.”

SM City Baguio said that they will be constructing a green building to offset the ecological footprint of the expansion by having a rooftop garden with ornamental plants and trees. Can that rooftop garden really make up for the environmental impact of thousands of cars, thousands of people, tons of garbage that the new structure will generate?

SM City Baguio claimed that they have partnered with the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). But a letter from Jennivine Kwan, Vice President for International Operations of USGBC denied this claim. Among the provisions for the suspension or revocation of the new Building Code of the Philippines is “Incorrect or inaccurate data or information supplied.”

SM City Baguio claims to be offering a solution to the city’s traffic woes by building a parking lot that can accommodate 1,200 cars. This was lauded by the city’s traffic chief, Supt. James Allan Logan. To them, encouraging individuals to bring their cars to the city’s central business district by providing parking spaces instead of encouraging motorists to use city’s public transportation system to lessen the private vehicles on the road makes sense.

SM City Baguio promises a lot, but let’s call a spade a spade: SM City Baguio already enjoys a lion’s share of the city’s consumer market, smaller local businesses can barely survive with what’s left. But SM City Baguio is greedy and wants what’s left of that market for themselves, hence the expansion plan.

Luneta Hill served as the springboard for the establishment of the City of Baguio as a hill station for health and recreation. This is where the city’s pioneers built the first ever structure for that purpose – a sanitarium, and the first area in the city to be beautified with trees and flowering plants. Today, those trees help give us air, prevent flooding in lower lying areas, and maintain the city’s aesthetic value.

Removing those 182 trees and replacing it with a concrete monstrosity erases the city’s glorious past and endangers and ruins its present. I’ve said here countless times and I say it again, we inherited a City of Pines from the city’s pioneers, what kind of Baguio are we passing on to the future generation?

Let’s say no to the death sentence handed down by SM City Baguio to the 182 trees on Luneta Hill!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Bakit kailangang tutulan ang pagputol ng mga puno sa Luneta Hill?

Kung ang mga pahayag ng SM City Baguio ang ating pagbabasehan, tila nga tuloy na tuloy na ang kanilang planong expansion upang lalo pang lubos na palakahin ang mala-higanteng mall sa tuktok ng Luneta Hill. Para ng gustong palabasin ay wala na talagang magagawa ang local an gobyerno o ang mga taong bayan upang pigilan ang kanilang planong putulin, o i-“earthball” ang humigit-kumulang 182 na puno dito.

Kung sabagay, meron na nga naman silang mga permit galing sa DENR para sa pagputol ng mga puno at sa lokal na pamahalaan para sa pagpapatayo ng gusali. Meron din silang Environmental Compliance Certificate, o ECC, na galing din sa DENR. Ang ECC ay nagpapatibay na ang plano ng SM City Baguio ay hindi makakasama sa kalikasan. Kung paano nila nakuha yun, sa kabila ng malamang na pagkamatay ng 182 na puno, hindi natin alam.

Bakit nga ba dapat tutulan ang balak ng SM? Una, ang bawat isang puno ay kayang mag-impok ng libo-libong litro ng tubig. 182 pa kaya? Kapag natuloy ang plano ng SM City Baguio na tanggalin o putulin ang mga puno sa Luneta Hill, saan pa ba aagos ang tubig ulan kundi sa mga mas mabababang lugar tulad ng Session Road, Gov. Pack Road at Harrison Road na maaaring maging sanhi ng pagbaha dito.

Pangalawa, kung walang mga punong maglilikom ng tubig ulan, maaring lumambot ng labis ang lupa at magdulot ng mga nakamamatay at nakapipinsalang landslides. Parang wala pa rin tayong natutunan sa Ondoy at Pepeng, o sa bagyong Sendong na naghatid ng matinding kalamidad sa Mindanao kamakailan lang.

Pangatlong dahilan ay may kinalaman sa ating kalusugan. Nililinis din ng mga puno ang hangin sa pamamagitan ng paglilikom ng mga nakapipinsalang Carbon sa himpapawid. Kapag mas kaunti ang puno sa isang urbanisadong lugar na tulad ng kinalalagyan ng SM City Baguio, mas madumi ang hangin. At hindi naman kaila sa atin na sa mga puno rin nanggagaling ang oxygen na ating hinihinga. Kapag kaunti ang mga puno, mas kaunti din ang nalalanghap nating sariwang hangin.

Sabi din nila, ang kanilang balak na bagong parking lot makakatulong sa pagpapaluwag ng daloy ng trapiko sa Central Business District. Hindi ako naniniwala diyan. Ako ay may sasakyan din, pero kadalasan ay hindi ko na ito dinadala dahil nga mahirap maghanap ng paparadahan. Kapag nagdagdag tayo ng parking lot, ine-engganyo natin ang mga mamayan na magdala ng sari-sariling sasakyan kasi nga, may paparadahan naman. Mas maraming sasakyan, mas masikip ang daloy ng trapiko. Mas mainam na sagot sa problema ng trapiko ang pagpapahusay ng ating sistemang sasakayang pampubliko.

Ang dami nilang sinasabing dahilan kung bakit sila magtatayo ng bagong gusali – kasama na dito ang pag hikayat daw ng mga turista at upang makapagbigay trabaho sa mga mamamayan. Sa unang banda, hindi SM ang ina-akyat ng mga turista dito kundi ang malamig na klima at ang mga punong pino. Pangalawa, ano nga bang klaseng trabaho ang alok ng SM City Baguio, yung trabahong kung saan hindi ka lalampas ng anim na buwan para manatili kang contractual at walang mga benepisyo?

Aminin muna kasi nila na magtatayo sila ng bagong gusali dahil sa isa at isang bagay lamang: pera. Ang tanong ko lang e, hindi pa ba sila masaya sa laki ng kinikita nila sa ngayon at kailangan pa nilang sipsipin pa ang mga tira-tirang mamimiling pinaghahati-hatian ng mga maliliit na negosyante sa Baguio?

Ilan lang ito sa mga dahilan kung bakit dapat tutulan ang plano ng SM City Baguio na putulin ang mga puno sa Luneta Hill. Dahil kapag hinayaan natin ang SM City Baguio na ipagpatuloy ang kanilang maitim na balak upang itaguyod ang kanilang kasakiman sa pera, paano pa natin mapipigilan ang iba pang nagbabalak ding gahasain ang ating kalikasan?

Hahayaan nga ba nating tuluyang mabura ang imahe at alala ng Baguio bilang “City of Pines?”

Sunday, February 5, 2012

More than 182

What’s with the 182 trees up on Luneta Hill anyway? A lot has been said about the air purifying and water holding capacity of those trees. I am not a botanist, I cannot expound on that.

But the death of these 182 trees, added to the hundreds that have been cut in Camp John Hay and who knows how many more will be cut in the future as they continue their development in the area, the piles of dead trees over at the Diplomat Hotel, are all coming at a time when the nation is still mourning the death of those who died in the flash floods in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan. SM City Baguio’s expansion that will compromise those 182 trees is coming at the heels of the recent garbage slide in Irisan that claimed lives and property.

This after the city along with the rest of the region were hit with landslides brought about by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng that also resulted in countless deaths not too long ago.

What do you think could’ve prevented these tragedies?

SM Supermalls tells us that they have experts working on this project who can guarantee that the building’s ecological footprint would be kept at a minimum, and they will do so much to make up for whatever effect the project would have on the environment.

Would these be the same experts whose design apparently did not take into consideration the unique weather conditions in Baguio that leaves the interiors of the mall drenched and turns the stairs into virtual waterfalls during the rainy season? And I don’t know about you, but the occasional shaking of the floors especially at the supermarket area never fails to scare me to death. I don't trust your "experts" for how can they be called as such when they believe that removing 182 trees from the earth is not a big deal at all - even a child will tell you that there's got to be something wrong about that.

It is commendable that SM City Baguio promises to plant thousands of saplings (not seedlings, according to them). But where? It is the city’s Central Business District that needs the trees badly. What would really make the promise commendable is if they do it not to make up for something, but just because they really want to help enhance the city’s natural environment.

They have said so much about why they want to expand: promote tourism, provide employment, solve the city’s traffic woes by providing additional parking facilities. You mean tourists will now come up to Baguio primarily because of SM and not because of the climate, the beautiful scenery, the pine trees? And what kind of employment will they provide? The kind where you have to be let go in six months so you don’t become a regular employee who should be provided with benefits as required by law? And really, solve the traffic problem or provide more revenues for SM City Baguio?

Let us not forget that SM City Baguio is expanding primarily because of one thing – MORE MONEY. And at what cost? It’s not like Henry Sy is losing money with his branch here, he will continue to earn millions with or without the expansion.

And the issue on SM’s expansion and its effects goes beyond the environment. It is also about a rotten political system that allows corporate greed to trample on the well-being of the people. Whether you can do anything or not, whether you agree with our protest or not, at the end of the day, if SM City Baguio gets its way and those trees die, we, the people of Baguio lose, and corporate greed wins.

To our government officials, elected or otherwise, do not be too vain as to think that this is about you. It is not. The issue is so much bigger than your bloated egos. Remember that when we air our sentiments about your apparent inaction, we are addressing it to your office, and your office is a public trust. You just happen to be the one sitting on that chair at the moment. Oh how you degraded yourself dancing onstage like a monkey, begging us to put you where you are now just a couple of years ago. Remember that we can unseat you too.

And never forget that what makes a community, a city great is not its parking facilities, not a sky garden, not a mall - it’s the people whom you swore to protect, uphold the rights and welfare of.

This is not merely about the 182 trees up on Luneta Hill, this is also about the welfare of the more than 300,000 people who live in Baguio.

Monday, January 30, 2012

altomonte: Congratulations, Councilor

altomonte: Congratulations, Councilor: I see that you have finally made a statement regarding the issue - it's about time. I congratulate you for that. I must say though that, w...

Sunday, January 22, 2012

altomonte: For our children

altomonte: For our children: We promised that you will not be late for your taekwondo lessons yesterday, and that we will have that special dinner you’ve been begging fo...

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Luneta Hill, Baguio City

Luneta Hill was where the famous Pines Hotel once stood.

Luneta Hill is one of the very few remaining forested areas in Baguio's Central Business District, and is home to mature pine trees, which Baguio is famous for, and other tree species that continue to provide breathable air in the otherwise already heavily-polluted Central Business District. It also helps in containing water preventing the flooding of lower-lying areas in the vicinity.

Luneta Hill is where a mall, SM City Baguio, was built which opened in 2003. SM has since been enjoying a very huge market share, displacing a lot of smaller businesses in the city. Despite this advantage, SM City Baguio wants to expand, which would affect 182 mature trees in the area. While they claim that they will not cut any of the trees and will instead "earthball" them to be transferred somewhere else, and that what they're building is a "green building," the environmental impact of their expansion plan will greatly affect the community and the well-being of the people.

On January 20, 2012, thousands of people marched down Session Road to protest the impending harming of trees up on Luneta Hill. Then on February 5, 2012, led by Dr. Mike Bengwayan, hundreds of volunteers planted more than 182 pines trees at Pine Trees of the World Park in protest of SM City Baguio’s expansion. This was followed by a 12-hour concert by local musicians and guest artists to show their support for the cause.
We are here to protect Baguio’s remaining forests that give us air to breath, water to nurture life and protection from natural calamities. We are here because this is what Baguio is all about: a community of caring people and a healthful, nurturing natural environment!