Revoke SM Baguio permit to kill trees, youth solon urges DENR
Kabataan Partylist Representative Raymond Palatino together with different youth groups trooped to the Environment Department office in Quezon City today to urge Environment Secretary Ramon Paje to immediately revoke the permit granted to SM Baguio allowing for the massacre of close to 200 trees for its expansion project.
Following SM Baguio’s reported defiance of the court order temporarily halting the removal of the trees, Palatino directly handed over to Paje an appeal letter that echoes the demand of youths and environment groups to stop the cutting and balling of Baguio’s pine trees, “a grave environmental injustice that favors SM’s insatiable greed for profit at the expense of the environment and the safety of local communities.”
A memorandum dated October 17, 2011 shows Paje granting the Department of Environment and Natural Resources regional office in the Cordillera Administrative Region a clearance to issue a tree-cutting and earth-balling permit in favor of SM Baguio.
“With all the permits and go signals from both the local and national governments, the cutting and balling of trees becomes a clear case of state-sponsored environmental massacre,” the youth solon said.
“With SM’s stubborn and unruly refusal to recognize the court order, it is now up to the national government to exercise its power as a vanguard of environmental protection, not as Henry Sy’s patron. In the interest of rescuing the trees and the people of Baguio, we appeal to Sec. Paje to set aside as null and void this license-to-kill at the soonest possible time,” he adds.
Since January, Palatino has been calling for a congressional inquiry of the said expansion project, filing House Resolution 2069 which directs the House Committees on Ecology and on Natural Resources to probe the matter. The resolution also calls on the DENR to immediately suspend the clearance and permit granted to SM Development Corporation.
April 11, 2012
Mr. Ramon J. P. Paje
Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Visayas Avenue, Diliman
Dear Secretary Paje:
It is with urgency and concern that I write to your office on behalf of youths and students who have expressed concern on the ongoing cutting, balling, and pruning of trees at the Luneta Hill in Baguio City. This local environment concern has captured nationwide attention and earned the outrage of many, significantly of young Filipinos who were taught at an early age at home and in schools and communities to protect at all times the environment and natural resources. The question that now befuddles them is: Why is their government doing the exact opposite? Why is the state, the sworn protector of the environment, allowing SM Baguio to murder close to 200 trees just to put up a parking lot?
What do we tell the young, Mr. Secretary, when they ask why the head of the environment department mandated with the power to grant clearances issued one to a project that has grave environmental repercussions? How do we respond to their queries, Mr. Secretary, about the costs outweighing the supposed benefits of an expansion project that would not only kill trees but would also endanger the lives of the residents of Baguio? What is the correct response, Mr. Secretary, to their accusation that business establishments have been receiving preferential treatment against original inhabitants, locals and residents who have long cared for the environment?
These are questions that confront me too, especially after hearing from the Aquino government that development under its leadership won’t be to the detriment of environment. These are concerns that need explanation, especially in light of an executive order earlier issued by the President declaring a moratorium on cutting trees. Does paving Aquino’s Daang Matuwid necessitate the cutting and balling of trees along its course?
Experts and environmental groups have thumbed down the SM Baguio expansion project for it threatens to eliminate some of Baguio’s remaining trees left after high impact development projects in the past altered the city’s forested landscape. Meanwhile, the alternative of earth-balling has been proven to be unsuccessful as in the case of the 497 pine trees earth-balled by Camp John Hay where only 20 percent survived while those not dead are showing signs of deterioration. I’m sure these concerns are not new to the DENR but otherwise demand reiteration for these are concrete and valid objections that desperately warrant the government’s attention.
Thus, I join the millions of environment-loving youths and Filipinos in calling for a revocation of the environment compliance certificate granted to SM Investment Corporation (SMIC) allowing for the cutting and balling of 182 trees at the Luneta Hill-Governor Pack Road in Baguio City. We appeal to your conscience to follow the Baguio Regional Trial Court in earlier issuing a temporary environmental protection order stopping the cutting of trees and finally set aside as null and void the permit granted to by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to SMIC. We call on you, Mr. Secretary, to uphold environmental justice and protection and side with the people’s genuine interests.
For the youth and the environment,
Rep. Raymond Palatino