PNoy government approved the uprooting of pine trees in Baguio City

So I heard there was a 125-strong flash mob assembled at six locations to “occupy” SM Megamall last week. There could be more organized protests to come in the following days until the whole issue fizzles out and goes back into the Filipino people’s unconsciousness. I noticed that not only is rallying in vogue in the country with “coño” kids said to be joining in, they also annoyingly refer to their activity as “occupy” this and that. As most people know, the term was first coined by international protesters — calling themselves the “Occupy Movement” to protest social and economic inequality. You can count on Filipinos to not only use borrowed concepts from western societies but also to wear it out ’til it comes across like a tattered shirt that has lost its luster. The occupy movement in the Philippines particularly the one directed at SM management is certainly one that is lost in translation.

The protesters who rally in SM malls were expressing their objection against SM mall management’s plans to cut 182 or so trees in its branch in Baguio City — a city that is also known as the City of Pines. But wait a minute…doesn’t SM actually own the property where the Pine trees are located? Technically, they can do whatever they want with the land and the trees within the bounds of the law. So therefore, even if environmentalists have successfully secured a temporary environmental protection order (TEPO) from the court to stop the cutting, uprooting or earth-balling of the pine trees, protesters are actually too late in expressing their indignation over SM’s plans.

Apart from being late in their so-called Occupy Movement, the protesters are holding their illegal assembly in the wrong place. They should be occupying the Baguio City municipal hall because it was the city government who sold the land to the mall chain in the first place. To say that it is only SM management who is at fault is wrong. As a corporation, SM is just doing what is in their nature to do, which is to expand and focus on their bottom line. We can’t expect much from corporations much less expect them to care about what ordinary folks think. But we should expect a lot from our government. What was the Baguio City government thinking when they sold the land to SM? They sure weren’t thinking about the impact of the sale to the environment and its people.

Baguio city Mayor Mauricio Domogan should not be off the hook on this one. It’s not like the mayor hasn’t seen or been to any SM mall. He therefore has an idea of the kind of structures the retail giant have on most of their properties. Did he inform the people of his plans to sell the property to the retail giant by way of public notice? Did he ask SM management for a blue print of their construction plans including what they will be doing to the land currently occupied by the pine trees? Moreover, did the Mayor give out a copy of these plans to the citizens of Baguio city for review? Failing all that, the citizens of Baguio and all the genuine and pseudo-environmentalists should be cross at the government agencies involved in granting approval for this project not SM.

In a news report, Mayor Domogan even said, “the development plan of the retail giant was approved by the City Government as no less than President Benigno Aquino III signed the deed of sale of the Luneta Hill property.” This fiasco, it seems, goes all the way to the top. In the same news item, the mayor claimed that it was the “Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) who granted permission to SM Baguio to cut 172 trees in the mall’s property facing Governor Pack Road”. In his defense, DENR Regional Executive Director Clarence Baguilat justified their decision by saying that there was “no violation of Executive Order 23 as the 139 pine trees in the mall property are planted trees within a private property excluded from the log ban.” Ayun naman pala. I wonder if the protesters are even aware of this information. If they were, they would not be “occupying” the malls at all.

You could disagree with DENR’s statement and say that SM is violating the log ban but you cannot deny that they are doing it in their own property. And whatever they are doing, they have secured permission from the government to do so. Yes, the selling of the land to SM for their mall was already ill-conceived to begin with; but denying their plans for parking provisions would be irresponsible at best and could become the city’s second mistake at worst.

If the mall management is not allowed to construct their parking lot, where do these protesters expect the mall shoppers to park their vehicles when they go to the mall? Surely without any additional parking, the traffic on the ill-planned Governor Park Road would be even more chaotic. The uprooting of the pine trees is said to make way for the mall’s expansion, which will include a centralized parking and bus terminal in the area. And since the mall is already there, what they plan to do with the land after the trees have been removed can only solve the potential traffic problem shopping centers cause in the long run.

What I am trying to say is this: since no less than a massive earthquake can destroy the government approved mall, the people might as well allow the SM management to proceed in completing their plan to build a structure for the private and public vehicles to be used by people who will patronize the said mall. After all, this is not the first mall SM has constructed. They know and can foresee the traffic problems their buildings can cause. They are simply addressing trouble the influx of people who will patronize their mall can cause in the future. This is how confident they are that, after the dust has settled, the people of Baguio would come in droves for the mall’s first three-day SM sale.

In crying foul of what SM is doing, the protesters merely make themselves look even more ignorant of what the people around the country should have done. It’s not like SM is the cause of the environmental disaster that is just waiting to happen in Baguio City and other parts of the country. In fact, SM management will not construct in an area without consulting experts if the land is conducive to their plans. And the college students who have screen-printed coordinated shirts for the photo ops have no idea that SM management operate with very few stones left unturned. Meaning, a retail giant such as SM would have covered all their bases even before they broke ground. Their statement below explains their stand:

The project is designed to receive a LEED Gold Rating, which requires the implementation and documentation of achievement of a minimum of 60 of the listed points, which will be subject to the review and approval of the Green Building Rating,” the retail giant said in a statement.”

LEED is the international standard for green building design and construction developed by the US Green Building Council. The earth balling of trees to make way for the mall’s expansion is also done in “close consultations” with the DENR and “other environmental experts,” said SM.

Pardon the pun but SM management is not the root of the problem here. Rather, it is the government and their lack of coordination or consultation with the people that is. As usual, the protesters are barking up the wrong tree and are decades too late to protect Baguio City.

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Post Author: Ilda

In life, things are not always what they seem.

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76 Comments on "PNoy government approved the uprooting of pine trees in Baguio City"

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17Sphynx17
Guest
Well, the current rules for the DENR or the Philippines do not allow cutting of any tree 30cm or 12″ in caliper diameter or more. This applies to private and/or public land. But be that as it may, they are not really cutting as far as I know, but rather earthballing and following protocol. I find these protests against SM are misdirected at best because they want to blame someone else for the cause of the problem and not themselves. If these pine trees maybe one of the few areas remaining in Baguio’s City center then it just goes to… Read more »
HOvercraft
Guest

Why should any legal property owner be able to do what he wants to do with things on his property if his actions will harm the community in some way? What is absolute right of ownership? What should it entail? When the law is late, what is the public redress?

Joe America
Guest

Why should people be allowed to throw trash out the bus window or blast music like torture throughout the night or drive motorcycles without helmets through packs of roaming, flea-bitten mangy dogs or piss on the grocery store wall?

Dale
Guest

…the current rules for the DENR or the Philippines do not allow cutting of any tree 30cm or 12″ in caliper diameter or more… does this mean that if i bought land and wanted to build a house… i couldnt do that if the trees that are in the way have more than a 12″ diameter? damn that im building my house…i remember that tree in the middle of the road in magsaysay…DENR said you cant cut it so the builders just built the road with the tree in the middle… what an uncoordinated government we have…

17Sphynx17
Guest

@Dale

If you would plan to cut the tree, you would need first to consult with the DENR. Should they allow cutting of said tree, a compensation through planting of a number of seedling would be done by you to address the “Replacement” so to speak.

In the case of SM though, it was eartballing or relocation of trees, which does not require paying for the substitute trees to be planted. This is actually a more costlier option compared to the seedling option.

And to also answer your main question, yes. You can’t just cut the tree without permission. Legally that is.

alconce
Guest

Maybe this group you call “flash mob” can direct their efforts to illegal loggers and their political and military coddlers all over the country. Or for a start, how about those illegal fishpens in Laguna de Bay or the ones in Taal Lake. They can bring their shrill and loud voices in front of the senate or batasan.

shane
Guest
Exactly! I mean, they are waging war against SM because SM is a huge corporation. But have they thought about other people or small companies who also cut down trees just to construct buildings or houses sa Baguio? How about the shanties sa bundok? Na instead of pine trees eh mga barong-barong ang makikita mo sa bundok? =/ At first against ako sa uprooting ng pine trees sa Baguio but when I read and digested the info found here (http://smsupermalls.com/smsupermalls/smbg/) na nabasa ko sa isang FB page, medyo naliwanagan ako…kase at least may plans naman pala ang SM na palitan… Read more »
Trorp
Guest

@shane

What you’ve commented is a basic example of critical thinking. Comprehend and analyze all the given information first before taking a stand.

Don’t be carried away by sheer peer pressure.

Bien
Guest

ok na din yang may matinding protest. hirap kasi dito sa bansa natin, the government often makes “midnight deals”, and the people find out about it, only when it’s too late. making SM’s life hell about this, cost them money, and would think twice next time, before going into such deals. walang politikong tatangap ng lagay kung walang nag offer. walang tatanggap kung walang maglalagay. it’s a circle of life here, which should be broken once and for all.

Hyden Toro
Guest

Corporate Greed is worldwide…all these corporations are looking is profit. Noynoy Aquino is part of these greedy corporation. He may even be a silent business partner with them. These people do not care about the welfare of other people. These people have power and money, to degrade the environment, and do what they want.

HOvercraft
Guest
Ilda’s article “PNoy Government Approved the Uprooting of Pine trees in Baguio City” and subsequent say the protesters are ignorant and misinformed, and that the Baguio people shouldn’t blame SM who is within its legal rights–as if “legal” in a country proliferate with corruption means what it should mean ideally–but blame their public officials, instead, and to shut up and take it from SM. Brilliant! Isn’t this the way people have always reacted forever to issues that have come up in the past, and the reason nothing is ever done about anything in the country? Blame Aquino, blame city hall,… Read more »
Trorp
Guest

Langya, benign0, great post.

Even though I comprehended your post as very objective, are those people who are rallying against the uprooting of pine trees flash mobs or occupiers?

I would not hold my breath that they would be even labeled by others as Environment Liberation Front because of the way they express themselves.

brianitus
Guest
At some point, those people involved should know when this battle is over. Once they’ve declared an end to the pine tree battle, maybe they will notice that the war against air pollution isn’t. Maybe that’s something worthy of working for in the long term. I haven’t been to Baguio in a long time. If air pollution worsens, am I going to need a gas mask for a vacation? Seriously, one thing I picked up from the SM plan that I think should be adopted by the city council — green roofs. I mean, if the trees aren’t there anymore,… Read more »
MidwayHaven
Member
The protesters are notoriously silent and hypocritical about their “allies for the cause.” For example, Goshenland (a local developer) was accepted on their side; perhaps to keep their movement “credible,” the protesters are silent about the fact that Goshenland is responsible for cutting thousands upon thousand of pine trees around the Baguio area for their residential developments. The protesters would counteract by saying, “let’s not distract ourselves with these other things and just focus on SM’s trees, which are the much bigger issues.” If there’s a bigger show of eco-hypocrisy than this, especially by so-called “environmentalists,” then I haven’t seen… Read more »
brianitus
Guest

Oh, a lot like how a PNoy welcomes an Erap to side on the anti-corruption front. LOL. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

Shouldn’t there be a moratorium on residential development, at least for environmental reasons? As I understand, water is hard to come by in Baguio. What’s the big plan to sustain the community?

Der Fuhrer
Guest

My criticism is against the DENR. There is such a thing as agro-forestry. This is done in privately owned lands. My question is why do they prevent tree planters from harvesting hard wood trees? My point is planted saplings in private land cannot be harvested without a DENR permit for each tree. A hefty “price”(thousands of pesos per tree) is set to harvest trees. Is this not corruption? Is this not interfering in private land transactions? In the case of SM Baguio permits were granted to cut. How much was the total price?

flexi
Guest
ang mahirap saating pilipino ay marami tayong sinasabi sa kapwa natin.. at lagi yung hindi maganda… pag hindi gumagawa ng action eh sasabihin na walang silbi pagka naman gumawa ng action sasabihin nakikiuso lang.. may idea ba kayo kung sino sino ang sumama sa lightrally? hindi natin alam kung anu at sino sila.. hindi natin alam kung bakit sila ganun ka desidido sa advocacy nila. At isa pa wag sana tayo mag sulat at mag assume na akala natin eh walang alam ang mga tao.. ang iba dyan ay nananahimik lang pero marami silang saloobin. wag tayo manghusga sa kapwa… Read more »
ahehe
Guest

Ayun po sa comment sa taas, yung mga protesters vs. SM eh no comment dun sa isa pang developer na madami ring pinutol na puno. Mga ipokrito nga kung totoo.

HOvercraft
Guest
What really is your objection to people protesting whatever they want to protest however they want to protest if they perceive their welfare is being threatened in any way? Does it bring you joy to say that they are ignorant and misinformed? Is this blog of yours just an ego trip vehicle for your pseudo intellectualism? If you want to educate people whom you assume to be less learned than you, then write it in a manner that teaches and fosters understanding, and not to put them down if you think that their actions are guided more by instinct rather… Read more »
benign0
Admin

I’m looking for a point you might be making, but I fail to find it. Perhaps it is because all you do is comment on the nature of the words and style used in the article and not the substance or meaning of the message and as such also fail to add any insight of consequence to this discussion. 😀

Trosp
Guest

The dude wants to have his feeling good moment. Please give him some slack.

17Sphynx17
Guest
@HOvercraft Well, you may be correct that people have a right to protest and not agree with certain actions/inactions. However, there is a time and place for these things. Aren’t protesters required to secure relevant permits first before staging a protest? Aren’t protesters required to organize a protest in a prescribed open area that does not hamper, intrude or invade on other peoples rights and liberties? As such the mentality of just having a right to protest is used too much when you fail to consider the people you interrupt, intrude, disturb, pester and/or defile. Can you define the act… Read more »
Dyed Moroz
Guest

Translation: I’m an emo, butthurt, simple-minded, balat-sibuyas tree-hugger, whose indiscriminate anger should not be questioned.

RTFA (read the f*cking article) again. Slowly, if need be.

Trosp
Guest

Comprehension is the root of stupidity.

nelson ongpauco
Guest

ang baguio ay hindi na baguio na nakita ko nuong 1970 madumi na ang dami na ng tao mga bahay ,who care kung putulin ang pine tree .at lease may MALL na mapapahingahan pag mainit ang panahon ,maganda meeting place ng magkaibigan puwedeng pumik-up ng girls .dapat nuon pa ay hindi na pinayagan na magtayo ng mall dito pero walang ginawa ang mga tao .

Don
Guest
Just to chuck in, being from Baguio: SM did not do sufficient soil-testing of Luneta Hill when it built their mall. The Hill is mostly red clay, and the SM structure is considerably heavier than the old Pines Hotel that used to stand there, and is starting to slide down. SM needs the expansion to put a bigger structure to arrest the slide. The problem is that it packaged the expansion really stupidly as a parking lot cum green building, at a time when Baguio folk have already had enough of pine trees getting knocked down left and right c/o… Read more »
FallenAngel
Member

Ilda, nice read, as always. Based on what Don wrote above, it looks like what you wrote about was just the tip of the iceberg.

Does this mean, then, that infractions by small fry are overlooked by many Filipinos? Does this mean that they tend to notice only transgressions done by big business? Sounds like another manifestation of our heritage of smallness. Or it could simply mean that we as a people cherry pick whom we’d like the law to apply to.

Don
Guest
The old-timers were whining that Quirino Hill was once covered with grass and pine trees, but they didn’t raise a holler when squatters smothered the hill. Instead, they allowed themselves to be overcome by pity for those interlopers. Really a stupid deal on the old-timers’ part; they should have razed the slums the first time around. Now the hills all over are covered with shacks and sickly designed structures. Too late the hero when the locals decided to go against /Jun Labo/Domogan/Vergara and their backers, they were too well supported by the people they hauled in to vote for them.… Read more »
Karlo Marko Altomonte
Guest
Karlo Marko Altomonte

Where were we? We were there, too… at Camp John Hay in 90’s, the first SM structure in the early 2000’s… we lost some, we won some. Maybe you didn’t know about it, that doesn’t mean we weren’t there. Thanks to SM’s own pr efforts, this issue got more attention than other protests against the continued rape of Baguio’s natural environment. True, it’s a private property, but under the law, one can get arrested for burning a pile of leaves in one’s own backyard, but SM can cause the death of 182 trees and it’s ok?

Rowena Boquiren
Guest

Those who protest the recent stealthy tree cutting by SM (allowed by the City government, DENR and the court system), are not protesting only now and are not simplistic; not just tree-cutting is the issue. I have been trying to help have a good direction in governance in Baguio City for more than 30 years, just as many of those protesters have been helping. Those who make irresponsible comments here are supporting the corrupt, indecent, inhumane government officials and greedy corporations!!! Ilda and Don, don’t insult the protesters. Bench sitters have no value to this discourse!

gregorio tanmalapi
Guest

This is Not a disappointment,,Ilda and Don,, All you guys,GRP, staff,writers,authors,janitors,whoever,wherever,Reply,Repliers,counter Reply, and what-knotters..! ALL, are doing a Good Job..if not,A righteous choice, for venting your opinions,angst,suggestions, according to your perceptions(right or wrong) on what matters.(at hand)instead of the old,obvious path, which is called VIOLENCE..!DEMOCRACY at work and Freedom in this(am,feeling)constrained comment boxes..(whew,this is small…)..!thanks scroller..up & down u go..!

BECKY
Guest

aside from the LGU, the bigger player is the DENR that grants tree-cutting permits, ECC, exemptions from EIA ( in baguio?), patents for supposed A & D lands

there are also some natives who think they can do anything with their ADs and ALs regardless of environmental and other relevant laws.

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