AN ONLINE petition has surfaced in a last ditch effort to the save the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) compound at Lualhati drive.
Started by Clinton Balud and now gaining ground, the petition is against the moves of a Presidential Executive Secretary “to eliminate newly planted trees to give way to the construction of executive secretary cottage across the Mansion House. Oppose building of Executive Secretary Cottage that will entail cutting anew of trees.”
A tree cutting permit is set to be sent to the office of Mayor Mauricio Domogan to seal the deal for the cutting of 32 Calindra trees to give way to plans by the Palace.
The trees were planted under the National Greening Program in 2011 and have now grown from 6-8 cm in diameter with a height of 2-4 meters.
The Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (Cenro) reported "according to the staff of The Mansion, the Office of the President wants to cut/remove the Calindra trees and replace them with Benguet pine trees."
In a social media post by Erlyn Ruth Alcantara she said “first, why cut trees that were, as PIA staff said, were planted under the Cordillera region’s National Greening Program. Second, since when does the executive secretary have such a privilege as to have a cottage built for his office? This is made-up privilege. To allow this now will set a bad precedent and could mean similar demands can be made by others in government who also feel entitled to an official cottage.”
Alcantara said government cottages were built in Baguio 1909-10 for departments and bureaus of the insular government because they held offices here during the summer months, literally moving boxes of files and personnel to Baguio and running official functions from here -- a practice that was terminated in 1913 because it was, even then, a costly affair. Still, the cottages were not originally intended to be “vacation houses” (which they eventually became after 1913) and they were not for politicians or government executives -- except for the official residence of the Governors-General (later Presidents) of the Philippines.
“The Mansion is large enough and can very well accommodate the executive secretary and several others. Hindi naman siguro kalabisan na hilingin sa inyo, Malacanang people, ang konting respeto/courtesy na makunsulta muna ang mga tao ng Baguio bago kayo umarangkada sa inyong mga plano. To build an official residence for the executive secretary (listen to the sound of that!!) is an unnecessary luxury and a waste of taxpayers’ money and speaks volumes of a person’s sense of entitlement/importance. Not one tree should be wasted in the city especially for something as ludicrous as this,” Alcantara’s post added.
Months ago, Malacanang ordered the PIA to vacate the historic cordillera house at Lualhati Barangay with the area to be converted to become a cottage to have easy access to the mansion house to be able to hold meetings.
Locals bemoan the hurried ejectment of PIA which occupies the house where Fr. Conrado Balweg stayed, after signing a peace accord that paved way for the creation of the Cordillera Administrative Region.
The cordillera house also maintains a dap-ay, a sacred gathering place which has become a favorite venue for meetings for both government and non-government agencies.
Earlier PCOO secretary Martin Andanar vowed to work towards saving the PIA from the oust.
Published in the SunStar Baguio newspaper on December 11, 2017.
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