Author's note (April 10,2012): SM Baguio began uprooting the trees on the eve of April 9; Luneta Hill was covered and the workers were masked. Advocates started to arrive in Luneta Hill 12am of April 10, begging the men to stop cutting the trees. But alas an alnus fell; dawn broke and Baguio has lost some of its few remaining pines. Baguio RTC Branch 6 has issued a Temporary Environmental Protection Order, stopping the uprooting, at least for now. SM still stands by their initial statement and the LGU still insists they can't do anything about it.
Armi of Up Dharma down plays the first few notes of the band hit ‘Tadhana’ and there was a collective sound of glee that resonated not in a music bar, but in an open space in Baguio City, where students, musicians, artists and residents were in one with the cool breeze, and their beloved trees.
The evening concert came after the tree-planting activity and prayer rally of ‘Project Save 182,’ a collaborative group headed by environmental activist Dr. Michael Bengwayan to call for the trashing of SM Baguio’s redevelopment plan that involves the earth-balling of 182 trees.
“It’s like being allowed to kill a person, provided that I make 50 new babies,” said Conviron Altatis, one of the activists who helped mobilize the movement, using Facebook primarily.
“Their favorite word is ‘ball’” said Altatis. What SM plans to do with the trees is earth-ball them, meaning to uproot and replant them somewhere else.
Plea to SM
Baguilat added that the fate of the trees lie mostly in SM’s hands, saying the environmental groups should direct their attentionto SM and convince them to spare the trees.
But the environmental groups look to take their case to the President himself. They gathered signatures from the numerous rallies they will send to President Noynoy Aquino at the Palace.
Bengwayan and other groups cry to the government: honor Executive Order #23. EO 23, in its gist, prohibits any body including the DENR to issue tree-cutting permits in natural and residual forests.
In a text message, DENR-CAR Information Officer Abner Villanueva insisted the order does not cover Luneta Hill as it is a private property for commercial use, and that the trees were not naturally growing but actually just planted - by SM themselves.
SM's Mateo also told Pasaway that "Trees are very important. We also find importance in them. But we want to also explain that caring for the environment is not only limited to trees. We care for the trees, but caring for the environment also includes water reservation, energy efficiency, reduction of carbon footprint, and this is what we're promoting in this expansion; making it a green building."
“Shoe....shoe...mart...mart...mart,” hummed Up Dharma Down to the tune of ‘Big Yellow Taxi’s’ intro; the people laughed, clapped, hysteric. As dawn breaks, around the pine trees, she sang, “they paved paradise, put up a parking lot,” and everybody grew quiet, reflective.
(Inlet photos courtesy of author; main photo credits to Beatriz Flores)