President Benigno Aquino 111, Sec. Ramon Paje of DENR and Secretary Rogelio Singson of DPWH

Early January this year, Shoe Mart Development Corporation (SMDC) announced it would be constructing a seven storey parking building at Luneta Hill, Baguio City and in the process, will be cutting and earth-balling some 182 Alnus japonica and Pinus insularis trees.

I wrote a petition against this here at http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/stop-the-cutting-uprooting-of-trees-at-sm-baguio.html where more than 7,000 people have already signed including some 15,000 signatories more on hard copies of the petition. It also led to a protest rally, one of the biggest ever in the city of Baguio last January 20, followed by a protest mass, tree planting an tree concert dubbed as Project Save 182 and Pine for Pine, respectively, last February 5, also attended to by thousands of Baguio residents and students

The permit to cut and earth-ball the trees as well as the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) were issued by DENR Sec. Ramon Paje even though there was no public consultation and hearing and proof of the SM project's social acceptability which was in clear violation of the provisions of the Philippine Environment Assessment System. DENR claims that SM has complied with all the requirements but when we wrote DENR to present evidences of the accomplished requirements, it has not done so until this time.

SM is showing it is insensitive to the protests and pleas of majority of the residents. It intends to go ahead and cut and earth-ball the trees, ignoring my scientific explanation that the trees will die even when earth-balled. It is ignorant or not mindful at all of the ecological, cultural and social contributions of the trees to humans and the environment.

The city government of Baguio has already given SM a building permit. Except for a handful, the city council leaders are surprisingly very quiet about the issue, lifting not a finger to save the trees. The mayor said he is powerless. The regional office of DENR says SM has all the right to cut.

The people are forced to ask, who then will help us prevent the cutting? We sought a dialogue with the mayor who said that it is only DENR that can cancel the tree cutting permit it gave and it is only the DPWH that can cancel the building permit released by the city government.

This petition demands then that for the 182 trees to be spared, DENR must immediately cancel the tree cutting permit as well as the ECC it gave SM because DENR erred in judgement, and that DPWH should cancel the building permit because it was wrong to give one.

We demand that President P-Noy immediately stop the intended cutting and earth-balling of trees by SM at Luneta Hill, because the trees are part of Baguio's natural and cultural heritage besides providing tremendous ecological importance.

We demand that the Philippine government's Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon Paje cancel the tree cutting and earth-balling permit as well as the ECC it gave to SM because no public hearing and consultation was ever held in relation to this project and it is a clear violation of the provisions of the Philippine Environment Impact System as well as DENR-DAO 2003- 30.

We also demand that Department of Public Works and Highways Sec. Rogelio Singson cancel the building permit issued by the CBAO office of the city government of Baguio because SM has not accomplished the public consultation and hearing requirement of the ECC, before applying for a building permit.

We request the government to act with urgency on the matter as the conservation of the trees is supported by Section 16 of Republic Act 7160, otherwise known as the Local Government Code of 1991.

We call on Baguio and nearby residents to :

1. Continue boycotting SM
2. Continue turning over their SM advantage cards in exchange of trees to plant
3. Continue supporting or mass protest rallies, and;
4. Continue educating the citizenry, including our leaders and public servants of the importance of trees to the environment and to human societies.

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The Cancel Tree Cutting, Earth-Balling and Building Permit of SM petition to President Benigno Aquino 111, Sec. Ramon Paje of DENR and Secretary Rogelio Singson of DPWH was written by Michael Bengwayan and is in the category Environment at GoPetition.