AN UPHILL BATTLE IN THE CITY OF PINES
The recent cutting of decades-old pine trees at Outlook Drive and in other parts of Baguio such as in a government reservation should mobilize residents to call for a more concrete and drastic action to allow the city’s environment to recover from the relentless exploitation it has been suffering from, even during these times of pandemic.
By now, we should already realize that protesting the cutting of trees on private properties in favor of high-rise buildings construction barely worked.
Let us shift our call now before Malacañang to order a moratorium on tree cutting in the City of Pines to pave the way for the putting up of high-rise buildings, either for residential or commercial purposes.
Like in the past, the current local administration has called for a tree cutting moratorium last year but has yet to receive any reply from Malacañang. It is high time Baguio residents support this move, as Presidential intervention is their last resort in protecting the remaining pine stands, the kinds that make our city distinct from other places in the country.
We are not discounting the power of protests or taking to social media our displeasure over developments that ruin the city’s environment, but these provided temporary reliefs only. Developers proceeded with their projects just the same, after assuring they will meet the conditions set forth by concerned agencies.
To put it bluntly, our protests against the cutting of trees were never actually heeded. Concerned agencies and developers heard our cry; but they never really listened to what we wanted – for them to stop making the trees pay for the price of development.
If we want to protect what’s left of Baguio’s forest covers, we might as well succeed in our collective stand to preserve this city’s fragile environment with the highest official of the land siding with us.
We cannot blame property owners for wanting to develop their lands even if that means chopping of centuries-old pine trees that only Baguio can boast of – because they have the right over their titled properties.
This is why we need to be united in supporting the call for Malacañang to issue a halt in the cutting of trees in favor of high-rise building construction.
This is the only way we can give our already fragile environment a breather, a time to recover, a time to heal herself.
Yet some quarters remain not bothered over a recent report that only 2.5 million trees remain standing in various sites in the city. A commissioned study by the National Economic Development Authority stated that the current tree population is insufficient to a city with over 350,000 population that increases up to 700,000 daytime population.
Constructions of high-rise buildings on lots owned by the rich, most of whom are not even residents of Baguio, have been bugging the locals for years now. In worst cases, the city’s built-up areas had encroached into forest covers.
More than just the aesthetics that people from the lowlands value on the trees, Baguio locals know that the pine trees have other vital roles in keeping the city’s ecology balanced.
In a mountainous city, residents know that trees help prevent disasters that may be caused by natural hazards like landslides.
Sure, every developer could always plant hundreds, even millions of seedlings, but at the rate Baguio’s forests are being converted into buildings, where else could those seedlings be planted to grow for future generations to enjoy if the city’s limited land area is already converted into concrete structures?
There is no guarantee that the seedlings planted as replacement for the cut trees would grow into centuries-old as the ones are now.
For now, the best way – albeit harsh and irrational – is to stop the cutting of trees and construction of multi-story buildings in Baguio altogether.
We are counting on Malacañang to be on our side in this call.