Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004

About

@mongster is a manila-based activist, former philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of asia-pacific affairs.

Statement after my appearance in the Baguio City Council Session

Through the initiative of Baguio City Councilors Karminn Yangot (Sangguniang Kabataan) and Isabelo Cosalan, I was allowed to speak before the regular session of the city council this afternoon. I was asked to give an update on the efforts of Kabataan Partylist and other concerned groups and residents of Baguio to stop the plan of SM to earth-ball 182 pine trees on its lot.

After acknowledging the gesture of the council to suspend its rules so that a House member can address the body, I immediately discussed the parliamentary status of House Resolution 2069 filed last January to probe the controversial decision of the DENR, DPWH and local government to grant a tree-cutting permit to SM. I told the council that the resolution was already referred to the Committee on Natural Resources and the committee chairman had given his commitment to conduct a public hearing in Baguio when Congress resumes sessions next month.

I also shared the results of our dialogue with the DENR – Forest Management Bureau last week. I relayed the position of the DENR that it gave a permit to SM because of the endorsement given by Baguio local authorities.

After my speech, Vice Mayor Daniel Farinas clarified that the council has not yet issued a final decision on the matter and that it was only Barangay Session Road which endorsed the application of SM. Then he asked us to also look into the cutting of trees along the national highway. Another member of the council also encouraged us to probe the loss of trees in the city watershed and other areas of Baguio.

Councilor Lourdes Tabanda suggested an amendment in the law to specify which local government unit should give the necessary permit to applications for Environment Compliance Certificates. Should it be the barangay, the mayor’s office, or the city council?

Council members agreed that the DENR failed to conduct a public consultation prior to the issuance of permit to SM. For its part, the council organized a public hearing this year but only after Baguio residents mounted strong objections to the mall expansion and tree-cutting plan of SM. A councilor cited a certain Public Perception Survey done by SM involving 38 respondents. (Would we accept this as legitimate consultation?)

One of the recommendations of the committee which conducted the hearing was to form a Multipartite Monitoring Committee to check if SM will comply with its pledge to implement several environmental projects.

Local journalists and residents are confused since the council had earlier approved a committee report which favored the position of SM. In fact, the recommendation to create a monitoring committee was an indirect endorsement of the SM expansion project.

It’s quite surprising that the council has failed to make a final decision on the issue despite the popular resistance of Baguio residents. Their constituents have already spoken and the council must break its silence soon. Or is the silence and indecisiveness a deliberate act in support of SM?

It seems the council is hesitant to use its persuasive powers to stop SM or to influence the decision of DENR and Malacanang. It’s unfortunate since local governments are not powerless if they really wanted to block infrastructure projects. In nearby La Trinidad, the mayor ordered Benguet State University to stop cutting of 50,000 trees for its housing project.

It’s unusual that DENR simply accepted the permit given by the barangay without consulting other local officials. Would they expect us to believe that the mayor and the city council expressed little or no interest in a major project involving a prime location in the city’s central business district? That barangay must be too powerful since it negotiated directly with SM and DENR without consulting the mayor and the city council.

National government agencies led by the DILG and DENR convened a meeting today of all concerned stakeholders to forge a win-win solution. But I think a compromise is unthinkable at the moment. It’s either we allow SM to cut the trees or cancel the permit it received from the government. Another is that DENR will conduct an ocular inspection this week. But it’s something which should have been done before DENR decided to grant SM a tree-cutting permit.

I salute Baguio residents for their steadfast opposition to the mall expansion of SM. Their brave actions have inspired many communities in Luzon and other parts of the country to actively oppose so-called development projects which also threaten the environment. Their laudable dedication to protect the trees and Baguio’s green profile makes the celebration of Earth Day more meaningful.

We are told not to focus our attention on SM and Baguio since there are other more pressing environmental concerns. I agree. But it doesn’t invalidate the issues we raised against the tree-cutting in SM. As Baguio residents, they have every right to speak against policies and programs that endanger the future of the city. Besides, our aggressive position on this particular issue doesn’t mean we are less concerned about the other environmental threats in our city, province, and region.

Let’s continue to expose the greenwashing efforts of SM and its well-entrenched apologists. Continue to engage your local officials until they make a categorical stand on the issue. Together, we will continue to remind DENR and Malacanang about their crucial role in reversing the permit granted to SM. The campaign to save the SM Baguio pine trees is not just an environment issue; it’s also part of the crusade for good governance.

No to SM expansion! Cut the Greed, not the Trees!

April 16, 2012
Baguio City

4 Responses to “Brainwashed and Greenwashed?”

  1. Clarification please — It was Councilor Richard Carino who asked for which LGU could give the necessary permit for the ECC. Thank you for considering the correction.

    Marie Balangue

  2. AMERICA’S SILENCE IN THE FACE OF CHINA’S NAKED AGGRESSION IN THE SCARBOROUGH SHOAL IS INDEED A DEAFENING SILENCE. THIS IS BECAUSE IT IS AMERICA THAT ASKED THE CHINESE TO INVADE THE PHILIPPINE TERRITORIAL SEAS AND ISLETS SO THAT THE CONTINUATION OF THE VFA WILL BE “JUSTIFIED”. MAGKASABWAT ANG AMERICA AT TSINA. NAGKASUNDO SILA NA SASAKUPIN NG KAPITALISTANG TSINA ANG ATING MGA KARAGATAN HABANG ANG MGA KANO NAMAN AY NANDITO SA ATING KALUPAAN THROUGH VFA. WAG TAYONG MANATILI SA 1950s. DAPAT AY TANGGAPIN NATIN NA HINDI NA “KOMUNISTA” ANG TSINA. ANG TSINA NGAYON AY KASABWAT NA NG AMERIKA. ANG NASA TOP LEADERSHIP NG TSINA NGAYON AY PANAY MGA NEGOSYANTENG BILYONARYO. WALA NANG KOMUNISTA SA TOP LEADERSHIP NG TSINA NGAYON. NAG-USAP ANG TSINA AT AMERIKA NA SASAKUPIN (INVASION AND OCCUPATION) NG TSINA ANG ATING MGA KARAGATAN AT ISLETS HABANG SASAKUPIN NAMAN (INVASION AND OCCUPATION) NG AMERIKA ANG ATING KALUPAAN (THROUGH VFA). CHINA NOW HAS A POWERFUL GROUP OF CAPITALISTS THAT COMPRISE THE MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX OF CHINA. THIS GROUP OF CAPITALISTS IN THE MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX OF CHINA IS PUSHING CHINA TO INVADE AND OCCUPY THE ENTIRE SOUTH CHINA SEA INCLUDING ALL THE ISLANDS/ISLETS THEREIN. CHINA NOW IS LIKE THE JAPAN OF THE 1930s.

    ADRIANO SOLOMON

  3. Thank you sir for your support to our cause.

    ana

  4. […] person of the Baguio City Council in our opposition to the planned treeballing (read: cutting) of pine trees in SM City. Together with Davao City local officials, we conducted a consultation with nursing […]

    Mong Palatino » Blog Archive » Adventure Time

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