Saturday, December 22, 2012

An Open Letter to President Benigno Aquino III

Dear Mr. President:

We, concerned citizens of the City of Baguio, along with the rest of the country and the world, are begging you, Mr. President, to stand up for our beloved city's environment, heritage, dignity and future by stopping the planned removal of trees on Luneta Hill by SM City Baguio to pave the way for their expansion plan involving a commercial building and a parking facility for the following reasons:

1. SM City Baguio is already the biggest commercial center in the city enjoying a lion's share of the market - this expansion plan is unjustified.

2. Their claim of soil erosion problems in the area will not be solved by removing the trees therein and building two huge concrete structures - common sense dictates that this will, in fact, raise the risk of landslides and flooding in lower lying areas due to increased water run-off.

3. The natural beauty of the City of Baguio, known all over the world as the City of Pines, has been deteriorating rapidly due to a misdirected sense of development. The removal of one of the few remaining forest covers in our city's central business district will further worsen the situation.

4. Our country has been hit by several natural calamities in the last couple of years that resulted in loss of lives and properties. In most cases, as in during the twin typhoons "Ondoy" and "Pepeng" and the more recent "Pablo," deforestation has been cited as among the culprits for the extreme destruction that was wreaked upon us. The removal of more than a hundred trees, in today's world plagued with extreme weather conditions due to climate change, on a hillside where schools are located directly below it places lives, particularly that of students, at risk.

5. The pine trees of Baguio are an invaluable part of its heritage - sacrificing more than a hundred of them to serve the interests of a single corporation is unjust.

6. We do not subscribe to the point of view that SM City Baguio can do as it pleases within their private property - the freedom and rights of one end where the freedom and rights of another begin. We, the people, have a right to a healthy and safe environment. Our constitution guarantees that.

Besides, to this day SM City Baguio have yet to acquire a valid title to the property and the Absolute Deed of Sale that bears your name does not bear your signature. Not to mention that the document was notarized not by government lawyers but by some obscure notary public in Manila. We believe that this is highly suspect that merits an investigation by your office/administration.

7. Our own mayor has turned his back on us, saying "I cannot do anything." Our own city council failed to address the issue. And recently, the court has ruled against us in the case we filed against SM, DENR and DPWH.

You are our only hope. Show us that "tuwid na daan" is more than just a slogan but a principled and determined stand against injustice and oppression for the welfare of the greater majority.

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Sign our petition here: www.change.org/save182baguio

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