Saturday, September 29, 2012

Infestation in Baguio

SM City Baguio’s latest justification for removing 182 trees on Luneta Hill for their parking lot: with the presence of the dreaded Ips Caligraphus infestation, the trees are going to die anyway. 

Let’s go back to the beginning of this battle between the people of Baguio and the future of their city on one side and SM City Baguio’s insatiable greed for money and utter disregard for the natural beauty, heritage and dignity of their host city and the welfare of its people on the other. 

When the issue was first brought to the public’s attention, they said that they’re ridding one side of historic Luneta Hill of trees for a parking lot. But when the protest movement started gaining ground, and perhaps realizing that their argument provides the protesters with the perfect anthem in Joni Mitchell’s song, Yellow Taxicab (“they paved paradise to put up a parking lot”), they changed their tune – it’s not “merely” a parking lot, it’s an expansion project that would include more commercial stalls that will benefit the city of Baguio. How so? The parking building will help ease traffic within the central business district (how when even the current size of SM already congests Upper Session Road, and the new facilities would even jam more people and vehicles in the area?). The additional shops would provide jobs (the kind where you’re deprived of your rights as an employee through contractualization). The expansion would mean added revenues to the city (SM City Baguio pays its taxes to Cavite where their corporate headquarters is located). Of course they intentionally omit the part about the amount of money this expansion will bring in for Henry Sy and his minions, and that this is actually the main reason for the expansion.

When the focus of the protest zeroed in on the 182 trees that they have put on death row, they trumpeted their plan to have a “sky garden” that they claim would mitigate the effects of losing 182 full grown trees. Still, the people were not fooled, for how can potted ornamental plants match the benefits of full grown pine and alnus trees? 

A case was filed against them and the government agencies responsible for enabling SM to do as they please with the property they have acquired under questionable circumstances.

Petitioners, wearing green arm bands, at the court hearing on Sept. 25 to show support
for the volunteer lawyers led by Atty. Chris Donaal and the NUPL 

And last Friday, Sept. 28, in court, they had a Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Cordillera Administrative Region (DENR-CAR) employee on the witness stand who claimed that based on their inspection of the trees at the proposed expansion site, a number of trees were infested by ips caligraphus, the dreaded pine tree killer beetle and that there are no known scientific and effective methods of addressing the infestation other than to cut and burn the infected trees. This they learned on April 3, 2012, according to the DENR employee, yet when they began earthballing operations on April 9, they did not prioritize the removal of the infected pine trees. There’s no excuse – there was no Temporary Environmental Protection Order issued yet on that day and if there really was an infestation, they could’ve removed those infected trees first and somehow prevent its spread to the other healthy trees. But did they? No, they proceeded to earthball more than 40 trees, and left the alleged infested trees right where they can threaten the remaining healthy, full-grown trees on Luneta Hill.

Or maybe that was the intention? 

And when asked what actions the DENR-CAR took upon learning of the alleged presence of an infestation, the witness replied that she didn’t know if there was any action taken either by SM or her office after she and her team submitted their findings. 

This testimony came at the heels of Engr. Bien Mateo’s, Vice President for Operations SM Supermalls, admission in court that they are building a 9-storey structure above ground, while their building permit application form indicated a 4-storey building and when their witness, City Building and Architecture Officer Engr. Oscar Flores, presented their blueprint in court, it showed a building complex with the biggest and tallest structure at 5-storeys with one basement that would hold a water reservoir with 6.9 million-liter capacity. 

All of this tells us that, indeed, there is an infestation – Baguio is riddled with lying, inefficient, corrupt pests. And we can easily rid our city of these pests simply by exercising our right in next year’s elections with the bright, green future of the city in mind. 

Yeah, it’s time we rid Baguio of these pests. 

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