Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Cordillera Peoples Alliance Condemns The Recent Cutting Of Trees In Luneta Hill By SM Baguio

The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) has joined the sectors and groups decrying the recent cutting down of at least 60 trees in Luneta Hill by SM Baguio. In a statement dated January 20, the organization through Jude Baggo, its public information officer, said that the CPA is joining "all sectors and the people of Baguio in expressing their total outrage over the new incident of pine tree cutting done by SM and the failure of the DENR and the City government to do any appropriate action to save the trees."

It can be recalled that around midnight in January 17, more or less 100 laborers hired by SM felled at least 60 trees in Luneta Hill. The trees were cut to clear the hill for the mall's Sky Park project. In statements released to the media, SM Baguio said that the Sky Park will help the city in absorbing the effects of climate change. The project will reportedly feature green walls, a sewage treatment plant, and an underground rainwater catchment tank.

However, many people are not buying the mall's pitches. Among them is the CPA. "SM Baguio ignores the common good and general welfare of the people in exchange for surplus profit for the few. SM proudly presents itself as a wholesome and environmental-friendly corporation. But past and recent events again reveal its true colors as an enemy of the trees, and the environment," the organization said in a statement.
Logs, branches, and twigs litter a portion of Luneta Hill where the trees were cut. The felled trees were covered with blue tarpaulin. (Photo by The Cordilleran Sun)
The controversy in Luneta Hill started in 2012 when the mall started cutting and earth-balling trees in the area. Concerned citizens and groups protested which led to the filing of environmental cases as well as the issuance of a Temporary Environmental Protection Order (TEPO) against the mall. The cases were dismissed. The TEPO was lifted last December. In effect, there are no longer legal impediments for the project to push through. Thus the cutting of trees in January 17.

A day after the incident, people against the cutting of the trees protested at the mall. They carried with them banners and black balloons symbolizing the seriousness of the matter. Photos of follow-up clearing operations on the hill also circulated online. The photos showed men working under floodlights and clearing the logs that were cut the night before.