Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The fight for Baguio's 182 trees on deathrow and the struggle against corporate greed shall go on

"WHEREFORE, judgement is hereby rendered DISMISSING the Complaints dated February 23, 2012 and April 13, 2012 and the Amended Urgent Petition to Cite Defendant for Contempt dated April 20, 2012." - ANTONIO M. ESTEVEZ, Presiding Judge

In a decision dated December 3, 2012, the court ruled against the complaint filed by more than a hundred residents of Baguio in their effort to save 182 trees on Luneta Hill, condemned to almost certain death for being in the way of SM City Baguio's expansion project.

The mall, already the biggest commercial center in the city and the region, wants to add another 4-storey commercial building together with a 5-storey parking structure on Luneta Hill. On January 20, 2012, the city saw the biggest protest rally in recent memory when around 5,000 residents marched down Session Road to oppose the expansion plan.

A case was filed against SM, together with DENR and DPWH, on February 23, 2012. The complainants in the case filed before Branch 5 of the Regional Trial Court cited irregularities in the issuance of the various permits issued to SM for the expansion as well as the various  adverse effects the proposed project posed on the city's environment and the welfare of its citizens.

While we in the Save 182 movement respect the decision handed down by the honorable court, we strongly  disagree with the same and vow to exhaust all other legal remedies available to us in our struggle to stand up and speak for the trees on Luneta Hill, which stand defenseless against a corporate entity's apparent insatiable hunger for more money.

We maintain that the removal of the trees on Luneta Hill will endanger the health and indeed the lives of countless residents of Baguio City, particularly the students in the schools located in the immediate vicinity of the expansion site.

We stand by our conviction that an artificial "sky garden" that SM intends to place on top of their proposed concrete building can never come close to duplicating the beneficial effects of the 182 mature pine and alnus trees which they intend to remove.

We strongly disagree with the honorable court's pronouncement, citing the testimony of SM's witness, Armando Palijon, who admitted in court that he had no direct experience with Benguet pine trees or any reforestation efforts in Baguio, that "the cutting or earthballing of the 182 trees within the vicinity of Luneta Hill, Baguio City will NOT cause irreparable injury to the environment of the constituents of the City of Baguio."

We stand by our conviction that the removal of the 182 trees on Luneta Hill along with incalculable amount of earth that will be removed to accommodate the concrete parking and commercial buildings as proposed by SM City Baguio will not only cause irreparable damage to the city's natural environment and the general welfare of its citzens, it will also forever mar the city's natural beauty and heritage - Luneta Hill being the site of the first structure that the city's founder fathers built in preparation for its transformation from a largely uninhabited pasture land to a fully-developed city in harmony with its natural environment.

We shall exhaust all legal and moral remedies available to us, and we are also prepared to bring our case all the way to the Supreme Court, as well as before other fora and  institutions, both national and international, to defend the trees on Luneta Hill, and with it our city, our home.

We will never give up and our struggle to save the live-giving and nurturing trees on Luneta Hill, along with our defense of Baguio's environment, heritage and dignity from corporate greed, shall go on.

/KM Altomonte, Save 182

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