Sunday, October 14, 2012

An Open Letter to one Engr. Bien Mateo

I don’t think we were ever introduced personally, but having seen you take the podium at the City Council, at press conferences, and the witness stand in court in defense of the removal of trees on Luneta Hill, never failing to enumerate the various reasons SM City Baguio is doing the expansion plan, I believe it is safe to presume that you are the main proponent of this project.

And though you carry the title of “Engineer,” I don’t know your exact area of expertise as an engineer, so before I go on, let me first share with you the very first of the fundamental principles of the Code of Ethics of the Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers: “Using their knowledge and skill for the enhancement of human welfare and the environment.”

I would also like to share with you the first of the Fundamental Canons that the institute subscribes to: “Civil engineers shall uphold paramount the safety, health and welfare of the public and shall strive to comply with the principles of sustainable development in the performance of their duty.” The canons also prescribe that civil engineers “shall issue public statements in an objective and truthful manner.”

Now, you said that the expansion is being done to address soil erosion problems on Luneta Hill. But instead of cutting down or removing the trees in the area through earthballing, then carving out that part of the hill before pouring concrete all over it, wouldn’t it be more prudent, sensible and sustainable to plant more trees to help stabilize the soil in the area, not to mention further enhance its aesthetic and real estate value?

You also said that with this project, SM City Baguio wants to help ease traffic in the Central Business District (CBD). Is a parking building really the answer? We know that SM Investments Corporation is among the biggest and richest corporations in the country, why not consider pouring in money for an efficient loop public transport system within the CBD that the public could use for free? This would lessen the jeeps that enter the CBD, and greatly improve the air quality in the area and I just can’t see how a new concrete structure designed to attract more human and vehicular traffic in one area achieve that.
You also said that this expansion will help boost the city's tourism industry. Would earthballing pine trees to build a new commercial complex in what has been known for a century as the City of Pines really serve that purpose? Can’t SM, with all its money, instead help bring back Baguio's old glory by investing in the city's re-greening efforts, the preservation and enhancement of our parks and other open spaces. How about helping address the city's garbage woes (besides, SM is one of the biggest contributors to the city's waste production)? This will make Baguio beautiful again, and tourists will definitely start flocking to our city, which would also benefit SM City Baguio.

One thing you almost always fail to mention during your presentations is that this expansion is being done to boost SM City Baguio’s revenues. Does SM City Baguio, already the biggest commercial center in Baguio, really need the extra profits? Are the Sys really that desperate that they will trample on the people's sentiments, rights and welfare for money?

Remember that profit isn’t always about having more money in the bank. Can you imagine the amount of goodwill SM will generate in Baguio if you forego your expansion plan, save the trees on Luneta Hill and do any one or all of the above instead?

That goodwill, all the money of the Sy family cannot buy that. But their, along with your conscience, sense of decency and genuine concern for the future of this beautiful city and its people can.

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