Bishop urges mall to spare the trees-A A +A
By JM Agreda
Saturday, January 12, 2013
BAGUIO-Benguet Bishop Carlito Cenzo issued his first pastoral letter for 2013 directed against SM Baguio’s mall expansion project and is intended for reading in all churches in the diocese this Sunday.
Cenzon issued the pastoral letter after being often asked of his opinion after a Regional Trial Court (RTC) in the city dismissed environmental cases filed by residents against the mall chain last month.
The bishop claimed to have been stupefied on why RTC Branch 5 Judge Antonio Esteves ruled in favor of SM, dismissing the three environmental cases, ruling that “the mall extension and the earth-balling of trees in their Luneta Hill property will not cause irreparable injury to the environment or the constituents of Baguio City.”
The Bishop was among the witnesses presented by the petitioners in one of the marathon court hearings last year.
Cenzon is now pleading for mall authorities to spare the trees. He is also imploring the help of local authorities to recall permits issued to the mall.
“We plead with our fellow citizens of Baguio: let your opinion be heard by the City and by SM! Baguio needs you. This is one moment when we hear reechoing God’s instruction to our first parents: “fill the earth and subdue it...” (Gen.1:28). Let us join up in taking care of our corner of the world,” the Catholic prelate said.
“We are shocked at how the Court disregarded the opinion of our witnesses as “non-experts” in environmental matters, and we protest. We cannot take that Court opinion sitting down. With due respect to the Honorable Judge who presided over the case, we cannot accept its absurd statement that earth balling of those trees will not cause irreparable damage to the environment or to us, the constituents,” the bishop’s letter stated.
Cenzon claimed the court ruling “goes against everything being said about Climate Change and the need for citizens to study and observe and protect our environment.”
“We are forbidden to cut a single tree in our backyard without permit from the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources). We have been enjoined and encouraged to plant trees everywhere we can. And we are obeying, already for many years, because we agree the value of trees for our health, for clean air, translated into production by trees of oxygen, and absorption of carbon dioxide,” the diocese leader said.
The bishop claimed the judge might have based the ruling on opinion of experts from the DENR whom he claims “have advertised their incompetence in the way they earth-balled the trees at Luneta Hill” basing his statements from photographs taken after the earth-balling.
The Catholic prelate also questioned SM’s lack of a certification from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau that erosion problems in Luneta Hill are serious enough for a drastic solution such as earth balling of trees.
The bishop also stressed that the people of Baguio own the trees now in danger of earth-balling in Luneta Hill stressing the city needs the trees, for the ever-growing population in Baguio, with the increasing number of motor vehicles plying the Central Business District.
“We need those healthy, grown trees to help absorb the heavy pollution which has reached high levels, as we ourselves can feel. SM may claim they bought that hill on which the trees stand (even if they cannot show a title to that property, which makes it subject to doubt on its legality or authenticity) but, in the name of civic-mindedness, they cannot just do what they want with that property,” the letter added.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on January 12, 2013.