MANILA, Philippines – Condominium developer Vista Residences, Incorporated defended its tree-cutting operation in Baguio, saying the activity is covered by the necessary permits and that they have increased the number of seedling donations to the city to replace the felled trees.
“As resolved in a meeting with Mayor Benjamin Magalong on 25 June 2020, we agreed to turn over an additional 5,400 seedlings. Thus, in replacement of the 54 pine trees, we are turning over a total of 10,800 seedlings,” Vista Residences Inc said in a statement on Saturday, June 27.
Vista Residences is the condominium development arm of the Villars’ Vista Land & Lifescapes, Incorporated.
During the weekend of June 20 to 21, Vista Residences cut 53 pine trees and one Norfolk fir at Outlook Drive behind the presidential mansion house. This is for the Vista Pinehill Baguio condominium, which the company described in its website as “a hideaway tucked into a mountainside that offers a breathtaking panorama of pine forests.”
Environmental activists in Baguio said that Outlook Drive is one of the last pine forest stands in the city.
Magalong earlier said he was “saddened” by the cutting that he claimed he did not know about.
“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.
The tree cutting is covered by permits and clearances secured as early as 2017, before Magalong was elected mayor, but the private land timber permit, No. CAR-58-2020, was issued just last June 18.
“To reiterate, the cutting of the pine trees is covered by a permit duly issued by the DENR and was undertaken in full compliance with all relevant rules and regulations,” said Vista Residences.
Baguio’s environmental activists have, for years, strived to preserve the city’s trees. The movement reached its peak when SM Baguio started its expansion work.
The activists have regrouped to take on a new battle to save their trees, starting with an online petition.
“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 environmental activist Michael Bengwayan, and one of the leaders of the Save 182 coalition. – Rappler.com