Baguio residents march to save trees in mall project

By Maira Wallis, ABS-CBN News Northern Luzon

Posted at Jan 20 2012 10:03 PM | Updated as of Jan 22 2012 04:00 AM

BAGUIO, Philippines – More than 3,000 people marched across the streets of Baguio City on Friday to protest the planned uprooting of nearly 200 trees for the construction of a 7-floor parking building.

SM City Baguio was granted a cutting-balling permit by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) last October.

The protesters blame the local government and the DENR for approving the project.

“They are only listening to the city officials and to the DENR. Where is our voice? This is the time for us to bring out our voice,” said Dr. Michael Bengwayan.

SM management, meanwhile, insisted that no trees will be killed since they will all be replanted.

It added that the project will provide jobs and help promote tourism.

“Ang gagawin ng SM ay ire-relocate at i-e-earthball lahat ng puno, using the approved methodology,” said Engr. Bien Mateo, vice president for operations for SM.

Environmentalists, however, warned that there is no guarantee that all of the replanted trees will survive.

“There are species like the pine tree, which are very sensitive sa stress. ‘Yung movement niya kapag i-earthball mo ‘yan, you have to dig deeper,” said Moises Bai of the Forest Management Service.

Following the protest, the city council has promised to investigate the issue.

“The rights of the private owner may be regulated by the government if it affects public welfare,” said Councilor Lourdes Tabanda.

Councilors said the permit given to SM can still be revoked if proven the project is detrimental. -- ANC