With all due respect to the people that are crying over the cutting of trees in SM Baguio’s property, I’d like to point out that they’re still unclear about what their “issue” is.
To make it easier for them, let me ask them simple question in an attempt: Is the issue the loss of forest cover or is it runaway land development?
Thing is, we have to throw out any issue regarding the historical value of the trees that were cut because the trees have no such value. We also have to throw out the issue of aesthetics because as far as that is concerned, Baguio has long lost the allure that it once had when it was run by the Americans nearly a century ago.
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As for legal issues, that matter has been decided by the Court of Appeals when the Baguio RTC’s decision favoring SM Baguio.
As citizens, when confronting issues, we owe it to ourselves to define what the issues or problems are so that we can more accurately come up with the right positions or the right solutions.
So far, Noemi Dado Lardizabal aka @momblogger on Twitter has been muddling the issue and has doing a disservice to the entire Baguio community which must live with the consequences of the noise she is making over an issue she has no grasp of whatsoever.
Noemi has been engaged in brand bashing against SM for over two years now on the flimsy pretext of being aghast by mall culture and how it eats up small businesses. Thing is, that kind of position (being anti-mall culture) is highly inconsistent or outright contradictory to her promotion of brands like Samsung, Globe, or Ayala Land Inc as well as the interests of big multinational pharmaceuticals in the Philippines.
Going back to defining what the issues are in Baguio City, here is how it plays out…
If the issue is the loss of forest cover, we have to ask: What manner or type of activity poses a bigger threat to forest conservation efforts in Benguet? Is it the cutting of 182 trees in an urban area or is it the loss of thousands of trees in watershed areas?
I’d say it is the loss of thousands of trees in watershed areas and so far, one of the biggest horrors that happened last year was Congressman Nicasio Aliping Jr.’s decimation of nearly 800 trees in the Sto. Tomas watershed in Tuba, Benguet which supplies water to Baguio City. It’s a good thing that the congressman was SUED for this ILLEGAL ACT.
Part of the news story published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer reads…
Benguet provincial prosecutor William Bacoling on Monday said the complaint, which stemmed from a road project linked to Aliping in Mt. Santo Tomas, was filed by Octavio Cuanso, acting Benguet provincial environment and natural resources officer, on behalf of the DENR Cordillera regional office on June 6.
Bacoling said the complaint was assigned to assistant provincial prosecutor Raymund Botengan.
Aside from Aliping, the other respondents were William Go, president of Goldrich Construction; Romeo Aquino of RU Aquino Construction Development Corp., and Bernard Capuyan, managing officer of BLC Construction and Aggregates.
Bacoling said Aliping and the construction firms’ officials were accused of violating Presidential Decree No. 705 (Revised Forestry Code), particularly Section 77 on cutting, removing, gathering or collecting timber from a forest reservation, and Section 78 on the unlawful occupation and destruction of forest and grazing lands.
A bigger picture presented in a report from The Baguio Midland Courier cites the results of official studies by the DENR regarding the loss of forest cover in the Cordilleras.
In the 2013 State of the Forest Report for Benguet, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources cited reduction of forest covers resulted in decreasing water availability and rising risk on water quality, soil erosion resulting in loss of fertility, and the increasing disastrous and hazard-enhancing effect of climate change.
The report also stated the province is losing 80 hectares of forest land annually, with around 17 ha. being lost to conversion of forest land to other uses and 63 hectares degraded due to forest fires and timber poaching.
In terms of achieving the target of total forest expansion of 56,700 ha., about 31,752 ha. or 56 percent is targeted as sites suitable for forest restoration through reforestation and 24,948 ha. for natural regeneration through assisted natural regeneration and protection efforts.
The DENR said to achieve the target forest expansion in 50 years, all reforestation targets must be attained in 10 years and subsequent development planning that accelerates the attainment of the natural regeneration targets in succeeding 40 years, including mass-based replanting and protection efforts.
With that said, it should be pretty clear that the 60 trees that were cut down in Luneta Hill recently is but a very small fraction of the 80 hectares a year lost to forest conversion, forest fires, and timber poaching.
Now, on the other hand, those bashing SM Baguio are going to point out that the mall is destroying Baguio and that would be cherry picking.
One person who lives in Baguio City and is very much part of the community there is Lisa Araneta, a person who is far more credible when it comes to all things Baguio than Noemi Dado.
This is what Lisa said about the degradation of quality of life in Baguio City…
“The city is overpopulated, residents park/wash their cars on the roads because they do not have garages… …there are thousands of colorum jeepneys and taxis, the jeepneys use up every available parking space in the city center to wait for passengers (and the drivers pee right there kaya mapanghi), this mayor and the one before him have created really confusing detours ostensibly to ease up the traffic but those of us who are not blind can see that this is designed so all roads lead to SM (you know what is in it for them, right?). So yes, everyone has contributed to turning my Heaven into Hell — and the residents believe it is the fault of the tourists. Hellow???
“Those residents who are surprised by the influx of visitors during the Christmas season must not be oldtimers. Since the 60s (I can only remember that far) Baguio’s peak periods are Holy Week and Christmas. Since 1995, the Panagbenga parade weekend.
“Baguio makes it easy for just about anybody to build a shanty on whatever available space there is. Baguio allows PUJ/taxi waiting sheds, or even barangay halls to be appropriated by some official and turned into private property. Baguio thrives on its diploma mills city drama and celebrates carinderias and poverty. Baguio either issues building permits for houses to be built on cliff sides or does not require occupancy permits. Baguio officials are ALL tradpols and the stupider the population, the better. BTW we have ZERO garbage REDUCTION efforts, because the mayor prefers to spend tax money on hauling (we know there is pera in basura, don’t we?) Same shit, different day.”