BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – Environmental activists in Baguio started regrouping after a Manila-based developer, Vista Residences Inc (VRI), started cutting 53 old growth pine trees and one Norfolk fir over the weekend of June 20-21 at Outlook Drive behind the presidential mansion house.
The activists started an online signature campaign to stop the cutting of the trees.
“The trees supply oxygen needs of at least two hundred sixteen persons, sequester more than 10 tons of carbon dioxide, help reduce global warming, recharge brooks and springs, help prevent water run-off and act a buffer zone against strong typhoons and winds,” said Michael Bengwayan in the petition.
“The importance of the trees is priceless. We are appealing to you because we know you also recognize the importance of trees in our beloved city and also because the company has already acquired a tree-cutting permit from DENR,” he added.
Bengwayan was one of the leaders of Save 182, a broad-based coalition which protested the cutting of the pine and agoho trees at Luneta Hill above Session Road to make way for the expansion of SM Baguio.
Bengwayan and other activists are preparing more action against the cutting of trees at Outlook Drive, one of the last pine forest stands in the city.
Rappler reached out to Vista Land for a statement, but has yet to receive a response as of posting.
Big blow to city’s re-greening master plan
Apparently, Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong was also unaware of the cutting.
“We are saddened because we feel it is a big blow to our Re-greening Master Plan amid our request to the Office of the President for a tree-cutting moratorium,” Magalong said in a statement.
“While the proposed moratorium has been taken over by this health crisis, we need to follow this up to ensure that our remaining trees will be preserved,” Magalong said.
One of his campaign promises is a moratorium on the cutting of trees in the city.
He met with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) regional officials and Ferdinand Salcedo, representative of the Vista Residences Inc Thursday afternoon.
A special private land timber permit No. CAR-58-2020 was granted to VRI during the pandemic. It was signed by Jim Sampulina, DENR undersecretary for field operations and Muslim affairs.
The Environmental Clearance Certificate was issued in 2017, barangay clearance on September 11, 2018 and mayor’s clearance on October 1, 2018 – before Magalong was elected to office.
Vista Residences Inc is under Vista Land, which has former Sen. Manuel Villar Jr as board chairman. Villar’s wife, Senator Cynthia Villar, is now the chairperson of the Senate committee on environment and natural resources. – Rappler.com
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