Sunday, August 25, 2019

Catap-Lacson: Save the Baguio trees


I COULD vividly remember the excitement I felt as a kid every time my family and I went to Baguio. It’s that cold breeze that is not present in the plains that people would really look forward to. Well, the chilly air is mostly caused by it being in a mountainous area, but it being surrounded by thousands of pine trees is another thing. The feeling of being in a place outside of the country is felt each time I go and visit Baguio City.

Sadly, that is not the case anymore. The last time I went to Baguio City, I did not even bring a sweater because I could already bear the cold weather. Baguio City is not the place I knew as a kid before. With more and more commercial establishments and industries blooming in the Summer Capital of the Philippines, Baguio City has lost its divine beauty.

It was in September 2018 when I wrote about a 2012 Facebook post by Andy Zapanta, which shows him tied to a tree along Session Road in Baguio. In the repost, he explains his protest against the construction of a mall which led to the cutting down of 182 pine trees.

I have also pointed out then that local government officials and environmentalists can push for stricter construction policies in Baguio City and limit the development of highlands to preserve more forest areas. The advocacy to plant and replace trees as a deterrent for landslides and floods should be escalated and continued.

Based on a recent inventory ordered by Secretary Roy Cimatu of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, at least 2.5 million trees in Baguio City needs to be protected after the draft report also showed that the city’s forest cover is “very low and may affect its ecological services.”

Subsequently the Supreme Court ruled on the prohibition of the cutting and earth balling of trees at Luneta Hill by the SM Prime Holdings, Inc. for the proposed expansion of its mall. The ruling concludes the case filed by the Cordillera Global Network against former Environment Secretary Ramon Paje.

It was in September 2016 when CGN and Baguio City environmentalists formed the Save 182 Movement as a bid to block the 1,500-square meter SM expansion project. Since 2012, thousands of conservation advocates have joined the campaign against the proposed earth balling and cutting of these trees.

As I have said previously, this is a “Now or Never” moment for Baguio City. If President Duterte was able to bring back the pristine beauty of Boracay, maybe he can do the same for Baguio City. I look forward that on my next visit there, I can get nostalgic and cherish the wonderful childhood memories I once experienced in our summer capital.


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