Monday, June 11, 2012

Taking stock (Part 1 of 2)

A netizen once commented on my stand to boycott SM everywhere for their wanton disregard for Luneta Hill’s historical significance, the heritage of Baguio and the potential environmental impact of earthballing and with it the probable death of 182 trees – “and if you’re successful and it results in the closure of at least one mall, how do you live with the fact that you caused thousands to lose their livelihood?”

One, even if it becomes 10 times more successful than it is now, I don’t believe it would be enough to close down SM, or at least SM City Baguio. But it would definitely make a dent in their bottomline – and since it’s the only language these corporate entities seem to understand, they might just be able to acquire a bit of conscience and re-think their plan to ravage a whole hill simply to enable them to buy more luxurious cars, bigger yachts and mansions in even better locations.

Am I anti-SM? As far as the trees on Luneta Hill, and what they represent is concerned, yes I am. Do I hate SM? Not exactly, but I am angered by the fact that nearly one-third of the 182 trees have already been given death sentences, if not already dead.

I have taken advantage of the way SM has contributed to redefining life in Baguio in recent years – I may not totally agree with it, but the fact is thousands of us have ditched Baguio’s beautiful open spaces as a primary recreational destination for the family for the concrete box up the hill, and whenever presented with the opportunity to communicate to those thousands, I, together with the artists I collaborate with in our group, Open Space, grabbed that opportunity to tell stories that we believed must be told. A lot of these thousands would otherwise never have given theater the time of day.

A moratorium on logging, which is effectively a total log ban, is currently being enforced preventing the harvesting and transportation of lumber all over the country, according to a friend in the construction business. She added this has resulted in much higher prices for lumber (another friend informed me that the price of ¼” thick plywood that we used to buy at P250 now sells for up to P400), slowing down the construction industry, even causing the cancellation of certain construction projects. It doesn’t take a college degree for anyone to surmise that this will, if it hasn’t had, result in loss of jobs for a lot of construction workers. Never mind the lost business opportunities for rich contractors, they have enough to hedge the effects for quite a while.

This, according to her, was the national government’s response to the Luneta Hill issue so as not to make the Sys feel that their SM is being singled out.

Am I for a total log ban? Not exactly. Can we live without wood products? I don’t think so. From the toothpick at the table to the roll of toilet paper in the bathroom, from the pencil your child uses in school to the door that we close at night to keep the family safe – they’re made of wood. Wood comes from trees.

I am for responsible logging – “prohibit logging operations of any kind in any forest, timber land, forest reserve or watershed” as Senator Loren Legarda proposed in Senate Bill 73. I hope she can add historical and heritage sites to the list. Lumber must be sourced from trees that were specifically planted for this purpose. Responsible logging can even help add to our total tree canopy instead of take away from it for loggers can actually “farm” trees on previously barren lands.

Another comment from a fellow protester also caused me to stop and think: “we are not only for the trees, we are anti-expansion altogether – even if SM decides to re-design the expansion to allow the trees to live and stay where they are, we shouldn’t allow it.”

(to be concluded)

*My column in the June 11 issue of Cordillera Today

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