November 29, 2023

Even without waiting for the action of Malacañang, the city government of Baguio can impose a moratorium on the cutting of trees to pave way for commercial developments.
Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Cordillera Executive Director Ralph Pablo said the city can impose a halt on tree cutting even without the intervention of the national government.
Pablo cited a case in South Cotabato where the provincial government, through an ordinance, imposed a ban on open pit mining.
He made the remarks during the July 6 council session where he was among the resource persons invited to update the legislative body on the developments that led to the issuance of a permit for Vista Residences, Inc. to cut 54 trees for the construction of a condominium at Barangay Outlook Drive.
City Environment and Parks Management Office Asst. Department Head Rhenan Diwas shared Pablo’s view, adding there are valid grounds the city government could cite in its efforts to protect the remaining forest covers of Baguio.
He said the council could review the city’s Zoning Ordinance and the comprehensive land use plan (CLUP), which are among the existing policies that serve as guides on how developments should be done in Baguio.
Diwas added the city council could also cite the ongoing detailed regreening masterplan of the city as a reason in the declaration of tree cutting moratorium.
He said it is important to review the city’s zoning and CLUP since development in Baguio is now spreading in peripheries where the city’s remaining forest covers are located and construction of commercial buildings are now in areas that used to be residential.
“We really need a moratorium on tree cutting to allow us to establish a baseline on what we want to achieve in the next 10 years,” Diwas said.
He added the city’s Environment Code also provides mechanisms by which Baguio’s environment could further be protected such as the provisions that provide for the creation of a Green Building Committee and a Safeguarded Land Use Committee, which should convene to review private development plans in Baguio.
He said the functions of these committees, which would help ensure that damage to Baguio’s environment is kept to the minimum whenever there are developments, are not being maximized.
“We really need to look into the Environment Code and our zoning and CLUP. Enforcement is the key to solving the problems on tree cutting in the city,” Diwas said.
Pablo, meanwhile, said the DENR welcomes legislations geared towards the protection of the environment and policies that the city may adopt to protect Baguio’s remaining forest covers.
He said it was the DENR central office that granted Vista Residences, Inc. the special private land timber permit that allows the private developer to cut the trees because they are natural grown ones.
“For natural grown trees, it’s the central office that issues the permit. For planted ones, it is the regional office that issued permit to cut,” Pablo said.
He added the DENR has granted the Philippine Military Academy to cut 53 trees for the construction of a parking building, adding the trees to be cut were planted by the PMA cadets. Likewise, the last request of real-estate developer Moldex to cut 75 for its high-rise structure has also been granted.
Pablo has supported Diwas’ call for a review of city policies relative to private developments in the city and local government processes that lead to the issuance of tree cutting permits, such as conduct of consultations at the barangay and endorsement from the local government units, adding the “DENR will not have anything to begin with if there are no endorsement from the LGUs.” – Jane B. Cadalig