Tuesday, April 24, 2012
AN OPEN LETTER TO DILG SEC. JESSE ROBREDO REGARDING CANCELLATION OF DIALOGUE
19 April 2012
HON. JESSE M. ROBREDO
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:
CHERYL L. DAYTEC-YAÑGOT CHRISTOPHER D. DONAAL
JANSEN TARUC-NACAR JADO RAFAEL A. BOGNEDON
RYAN JAMES SOLANO BRENNER BENGWAYAN