Baguio City

Baguio congressman, local officials race to save city’s iconic pine trees

Frank Cimatu
Baguio congressman, local officials race to save city’s iconic pine trees

DWINDLING. Pine trees in Baguio City are under constant threat from real estate development.

Mau Victa/Rappler

(UPDATED) Baguio Representative Mark Go and the Baguio City Council seek to protect their city's remaining pine trees

Baguio Representative Mark Go and the Baguio City Council are racing to pass laws to save the remaining pine trees in the city.

Go on Monday, July 13, filed House Bill No. 7090 seeking for 10-year moratorium on tree cutting in the city.

“No tree shall be cut, removed or excavated except for dead and infested trees that are beyond reviving or those that might infect other trees,” Go said in his proposed law.

Under HB 7090, any construction in the city should consider the preservation of existing trees in the design.

The Baguio City Council also on Monday passed on first reading an ordinance to impose a 5-year tree-cutting moratorium in residential, business and public areas in the city.

The ordinance, introduced by Councilors Levy Lloyd Orcales, Joel Alangsab, and Art Allad-iw, proposes a P5,000-fine, confiscation of lumber and tools, and a one-year jail term for anyone caught cutting trees in the city during the moratorium.

Go proposes for stringent punishment: imprisonment of 2 to 6 years, and a fine of P100,000 to P300,000 for every tree cut.

Go said that the City Environment and Natural Resource Office, in coordination with the Department of Environment and Natural Resourses (DENR) should conduct another survey and inventory of all trees.

He said that the city has only 2.5 million trees left, with only 500,000 of them Benguet pine trees.

Youth council representative Orcales echoed Go’s plea, saying that Baguio is no longer deserving of the title, “Pine City.”

Orcales said that more trees are expected to be cut in the coming months. He said that the DENR had already informed the city council that Moldex Realty along Marcos Highway is set to cut 75 more trees for the expansion of its condominium complex.

The city council also asked Vista Residences, Incorporated to suspend its tree-cutting operations in the last pine forest stands in the city in Outlook Drive.

Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan instructed the real estate owned by the Villars to postpone the cutting of 24 more pine trees out of the original 53 in the area to give more time to deliberate on the matter.

But netizens this Tuesday said that Vista Residences has started to cut the remaining trees. The realty company said that its Special Private Land Timber Permit is set to expire on July 15. 

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.”

The operation sparked outrage in Baguio City, but Vista Residences – the condominium development arm of the Villars’ Vista Land & Lifescapes, Incorporated – defended the move, 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. – Rappler.com

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