Issue of July 5, 2020
Mt. Province
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Bishop supports freeze on cutting of pine trees
by Jane B. Cadalig

URBAN SPRAWL -- The remaining green patches in Baguio are slowly being flattened to pave the way for commercial and residential structures through the years, with a National Economic Development Authority study citing that the current tree population in the city is insufficient for the more than 350,000 residents and a daytime population of 700,000 during peak season. Recent inventory conducted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Cordillera revealed only 2.5 million trees remain standing in the City of Pines. -- Harley Palangchao

The recent cutting of pine trees to pave the way for the construction of a high-rise structure at Outlook Drive barangay has once again stirred up a controversy and awakened calls for the declaration of a moratorium on tree cutting in Baguio City.

The Diocese of Baguio joined the call for concerned government offices to heed the call for a halt in the cutting of trees in the city.

Bishop Victor Bendico expressed support to the petitions against the cutting of 54 trees, which the Department of Environment and Natural Resources allowed by giving condominium developer, Vista Residences, Inc., a special private land timber permit (SPLTP).

The SPLTP covers the cutting of 53 pine trees and one Norfolk pine.

“The Diocese of Baguio strongly opposes and considers as unacceptable the continuing mass killing of full grown and healthy trees,” Bendico said in a statement that also called on the faithful to remain caring and loving stewards of God’s creation to maintain Baguio as the City of Pines and Summer Capital.

“We, as a diocese, do not sanction this kind of activity that gravely rejects the moral principle of the Social Doctrine of the Church on safeguarding the environment. We hope and pray that (the call for moratorium on tree cutting) will be acted upon favorably by the concerned government offices for the success of the re-greening master plan of the City of Baguio.”

Vista Residences started cutting trees in its property on June 20 and 21, earning the ire of environmental activists and residents.

At the city council, the members asked the Office of the President to issue an executive order for a moratorium on tree cutting in Baguio.

“The issuance of an executive order for a moratorium on tree cutting would allow the city to breathe, recover, and regain its forest covers as a gift to our people. We welcome economic development but not to the extent of depriving our people and for generations to come clean and fresh air,” a portion of the resolution, introduced by Councilor Levy Lloyd Orcales, stated.

“The City of Baguio will remain as steward for the protection and preservation of our remaining forest covers. We do not want our children and our children’s children to not be able to breathe clean and fresh air and deprive them of the future they deserve, let us together save the future of our youth while we still can,” the resolution added.

The council also summoned representatives of Vista Residences, the DENR, officials of Outlook Drive barangay, and concerned offices of the city government to the body’s July 6 session to shed light on the issue.

“There is a clamor from various sectors for the city government to act on the cutting of trees, which the company (implemented) while the city is under quarantine,” the council stated in a resolution introduced by Councilor Arthur Allad-iw.

Mayor Benjamin Magalong has earlier expressed displeasure over the tree cutting at Outlook Drive. In a meeting with DENR-Cordillera Executive Director Ralph Pablo and a representative of Vista Residences, he asked the developer to plant 200 seedlings for every felled tree.

Magalong has also been pushing for a moratorium on tree cutting and construction of high-rise buildings in Baguio.

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