Saturday, February 4, 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.

*OUT IN THE OPEN, Cordillera Today Feb. 5, 2012

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