Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The People vs. SM Baguio: Barking Up The Wrong Tree (Part 2 of 2)

Continued from Part 1...

The campaign by Baguio residents to save 182 Benguet pine trees from the SM Baguio expansion complex is a move too little, too late, and bears the hallmarks of double standards.

Double standard

When the MMDA earth-balled some 20 palm trees and placed them in the middle of EDSA prior to the ADB Summit last week, we didn’t see environmentalist crying foul. The same is true when the same agency earth-balled some aging trees along Quezon Avenue a few years back to give way to road widening projects. And yet, here we are in face of losing 182 Benguet pines that are not even listed as endangered or threatened by the IUCN, there is too much backlash. (Not that I'm justifying the need to cut or earth-ball them. All I'm saying here is, why defend only one specie of tree, when there are other threatened, even endangered trees out there.) And even when the facts have been explained that these trees won’t be cut, and that 50,000 saplings of Benguet pine will be planted in and around Baguio coinciding with this move, they won’t back down. I don’t see the consistency in these actions. Let alone, I don’t see where this is heading. Will it lead to civic actions to control migration in and around Baguio’s hills? Will it lead to civic effort to promote a ban on plastics and Styrofoam? Will it lead to a civic movement to stop further commercial development by other big companies? Or are they really just targeting SM on this one? I wish they could pinpoint other violators if there are. Furthermore, I hope some of these protesters won't be hypocrite enough to bash SM and shop in it afterwards.

Heritage issue, not Environmental

Thus, with the merits of their actions scrutinized, the movement to save 182 Benguet pine trees is no longer an environmental issue. It now only stands as an issue of heritage, about a local society trying to save what is left of its pride and heritage – the pine trees of Luneta Hill. Will earth-balling these trees make Baguio less worthy to be called the City of Pines? Aren’t there other groves of pine trees in this bustling, overcrowded city? Isn’t SM even trying to revitalize such status by planting 50,000 saplings?

This campaign is too little, too late. They may win the battle to save 182 Benguet pine tree, but lose the war against continuous human encroachment in other areas in Baguio City. I suggest the movement to focus their energies in other bigger issues such as controlling migration, waste management, watershed protection, creation of more protected areas in and around the city, reforestation efforts, and balancing urban development with environmental sustainability.

Human Encroachment: Isn't this a much pressing issue in Baguio City? | Photo courtesy of Flickr

Barking up the wrong tree

Baguio residents are barking up the wrong tree in this issue. I’d say enough with passing the blame on progressive companies who are simply trying to balance development with the environment. If they really want to pinpoint what’s causing the degradation of Baguio’s natural beauty, they should look at themselves in the mirror and be humble enough to admit that such degradation is their own working as well. In the end, they must commit themselves to much bigger, long-term solutions to this problem, perhaps even work with big companies on this endeavour rather than berating them. After all, neither Baguio residents nor SM wants to see this place lose its crown as the City of Pines. TSS

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