MANILA, Philippines – Residents of Baguio City have expressed dismay over what they see is a deterioration of their city.
Baguio’s roads that were once free from pollution are now congested with vehicles and its skyline is now peppered with buildings.
"In the old Baguio, of course, life was simpler and it was a very, very small mountain city,” said Ursula Daoey, one of the residents.
Baguio was designed for only 25,000 people but today, the city's population is estimated at about 400,000.
“When we were kids, we could just cross back and forth without the possibility of being hit by a vehicle,” said architect Joseph Alabanza.
Based on data from the local government, out of a total land area of 5,749 hectares, 5,183 hectares are for residential, commercial, industrial and institutional use while only about 521 hectares are left for forest cover.
“Socio-economic development should balance with the demands of the environment. This way, we can at some extent stop the migration to Baguio,” Alabanza said.
This is why many Baguio residents were outraged over SM's plan to uproot and transfer the pine trees at Luneta Hill.
SM has maintained that it will not cut the trees but an environmentalist said the trees may not live long after being earth-balled.
SM earlier said it has tapped experts for the earth-balling operations.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources said it is monitoring SM's compliance with the temporary environmental protection order (TEPO) from the court.
A Baguio regional trial court extended on Friday the TEPO issued last April 11 to stop the earth-balling activities on Luneta Hill.
The extension will last until the case filed by environmental group Project Save 182 against SM is heard.
Experts said SM will have a hard time conducting the earth-balling or transfer of trees since the trees' roots are intertwined and attached to rocks.
The distance between the trees is just around 2 meters.
“Mahirap i-uproot kasi manipis at minsan malalim ang kanyang tap root kaya dapat abutin mo ‘yung sa ilalim,” said Dr. Isidro Esteban, forestry consultant of the Manila Seedling Bank Foundation.
Esteban said the environment does not have to get in the way of business and development.
Other experts said that while the process of earth-balling is delicate, it can be done.
The tree's roots have to be wrapped in a sack to avoid exposure and to keep the soil intact.
It takes a month before a tree can be transplanted.
At the Mehan Garden in Manila, over 100 mango, narra and mahogany trees thrive after undergoing earth-balling and transplanting. -- Reports from Maira Wallis, ABS-CBN News Northern Luzon; Dominic Almelor, ABS-CBN News; ANC