Students urge Duterte to help them protect Baguio pine trees

Micaella Ilao, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 28 2019 11:53 PM

BAGUIO CITY – “It is ambitious but we’re hoping to preserve these beautiful trees”.

These were the words said by Alcina Flores, a Grade 6 student at the Baguio Pines Family Learning Center. Together with other students, she is hoping that the remaining tree park in Baguio city will be sustained.

Flores and 60 other students went to the city mayor Monday afternoon to ask its office to help them send their letters addressed to President Rodrigo Duterte.

Jewel Aoas said the trees are important for their generation to live.

“Please president help us to not cut the trees down because without them we cannot have fresh air and without them we can even die," she said.

The trees Flores and Aoas are referring to are those planted in the park near the Convention Center and in front of the University of the Philippines.

According to Dr. Zenaida Baoanan, a professor in UP Baguio, this is the only tree park remaining in the city center.

“It serves as the lung of the city," she said.

The park is owned by the Government Service Insurance System central office.

Baoanan added that there are some companies planning to buy the lot from GSIS and build another structure in it.

"May mga speculations kasi na some companies want to convert it into a condotel or carpark building. What we need right now are green spaces and not carpark. So we can preserve the green patches in our city," she said.

Baoanan is a professor in UP Baguio under the Department of Biology. One of their researches is the importance of green patches, like this one, in an urban area.

"Green patches help in absorbing the carbon emitted by cars and in return gives off oxygen. It also helps in sustaining the normal climate in an urban area. Like in Baguio which is known to have a cool climate," she explained.

Baguio Mayor Mauricio Domogan said the city has been doing its task to retain the tree park in the area by planning to purchase the lot from GSIS.

He, however, said it is too expensive.

“We were offering na bilhin na lang ng city, yung mahirap lang November 2017 yung sulat nila sabi nila P400 plus million yung kanilang presyo. Natural sabi ng finance committee bargain na tayo para mabawasan. Sumulat kami. Ayaw nilang mabawasan, shinoot naming yung presyo and then sabi nila P670 million. Di kami nakapag agree sa presyo. In the meantime 'di natin papayagan na macommercialize yan," Domogan said.

With the letters of the children addressed to the president, they hope that the GSIS will retain the lot as a tree park.

It was also saved by the same institution in 2009 after sending a letter to former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. After Arroyo’s term, the effectivity of it being a forest reservation also ended.