Baguio groups hit SM over ‘massacre’ of trees

>> Monday, January 26, 2015

‘Firm contradicts Pope’s call to care for environment’ 

BAGUIO CITY – Cause-oriented groups and concerned citizens here assailed cutting of around 60 trees which they called “massacre” last week by SM Baguio saying they would hold protest actions against this.   

“While Pope Francis reiterated the need to nurture the environment during his Papal visit in the country, SM Baguio cut at least 60 pine trees in the cover of the night on Jan. 17,” said Jude Baggo, information officer of the Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance. 

On Jan. 2012, SM Baguio cut down around 40 pine trees despite widespread and strong opposition from environmental activists and people of Baguio.

At present, a total of at least 100 grown pine trees were cleared by SM Baguio since 2012 to pave way for construction of multi-level parking system.

This, as SM said it would plant 506,000 pine seedlings as replacement of the 60 pine trees it cut last week.

This was reportedly 440,000 more than the order issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, after the Court of Appeals—in a 31-page decision on December 12, 2014—affirmed  lifting of Temporary Environment Protection Order (TEPO).

The TEPO was a subject of appeal by environmentalists in this city over a Regional Trial Court decision issued on April 10, 2012 that lifted the said protection order.

The CA said “the appeal lacks merit,” and allowed SM Development Corporation to proceed with its Sky Park project.

SM’s project involves the construction of a seven-storey building called “Sky Park Project” which features walls with live plants, a sewerage treatment facility, and an underground rainwater catchment tank.

The excess space of the water catchment tank will be turned into parking spaces that can accommodate more than 600 vehicles.

SM Baguio was reportedly given permits to cut down at least 60 pine trees by the DENR and city government with the condition that the firm plant 506,000 trees in different areas of the city aside from posting a P6 million bond.

“These actions call for indignation,” Baggo said. “The Cordillera Peoples Alliance joins all sectors and people of Baguio in expressing their outrage over this new incident of pine tree cutting done by SM and the failure of the DENR and the city government to do appropriate action to save the trees,” he added.

“It may be legally correct that SM is permitted to proceed in cutting the pine trees but this is not a simple issue just for SM to decide. This is an issue for the people of Baguio to get engaged in and participate. Those responsible of this problem should be accountable to the people. Also, what is legally permitted is not always just.”

Before SM, Luneta Hill was a mini park and one of the few of spots in Baguio where one can find trees, flowers, butterflies and fresh atmosphere where people walk and commune with nature.

“With the construction of SM, Luneta Hill was transformed into a concrete jungle,” Baggo said.

“The remaining trees at Luneta Hill should be spared from further cutting. As people, we should heed the call of Pope Francis to care and nurture the environment. We can start small by planting more trees and recycling; participating and involvement in activities and peoples organizations working for the protection of the environment.”

He said, “Unlike Pope Francis who showed deep concern for the poor and the marginalized sectors of society, 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.”

In the first quarter of 2012, uproar was caused by sudden news that SM’s expansion project will cause cutting or earth-balling of 182 pine trees.

Earlier, the TEPO was momentarily given to halt the earth-balling while law suits were forwarded by several groups regarding the Environmental Compliance Certificate awarded to SM as well as the expansion project.

The cases were dismissed by the RTC in December 2012, stating the case failed to show enough evidence on harmful effects of the project.

The case was elevated to the CA which released its decision last week.

The CA dismissed the case citing that SMI had not violated any legal procedures and that the expansion project will not have an adverse effect on the city’s environment.

“We must be conscious of the impact SM will have in our local and homegrown businesses here in the city,” said Perry Mendoza, chairperson of Tongtongan Ti Umili and Tracy Anne Dumalo, TTU secretary general in a statement.

“How many local businesses will suffer due to unequal competition?  We, as Baguio citizens, grew up with these homegrown businesses. We know these people, they became a part of our lives.”

“As we let SM pursue its expansion projects (hotels, restaurants, parking area, recreational area) creep into what is already a crowded Baguio. We are contributing to the eventual death of local and homegrown businesses and establishments. Now that the legal machinery we have depended on to put a stop to the continuation of the project has failed us again, the answer is in the hands of the people in taking a united stand and forging an action to really show the Baguio we want. The fight against corporate greed continues.” -- AD


5 dead, 2 hurt in Pangasinan shootings

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan – Five persons were killed and two others were wounded in separate shooting incidents involving motorcycle-riding gunmen in Pangasinan last week.

Unidentified assailants gunned down Larry Miranda, 41, a former barangay councilman, and Virgilio Ferrer, 58, both residents of Barangay Longos in Calasiao town, along a road in Barangay Pangalangan in San Carlos City Jan. 17.  

Miranda suffered multiple gunshot wounds in the body while Ferrer was hit in the back.

They were pronounced dead on arrival at the Pangasinan Provincial Hospital.

Police said the victims were on a motorcycle on their way home from a cockpit in Barangay Capataan when three unidentified suspects on two motorcycles chased them.

In Bugallon town, Mark Garcia, 42, a resident of Barangay Maambal in Pozorrubio town and caretaker at a poultry farm of former Binmaley mayor Lorenzo Cerezo, was shot dead in Barangay Salomague at 1:15 a.m. a day earlier.

The suspects also took the P70,000 cash that he was carrying.

Two farmers – Jesus Sison, 63, a resident of Barangay Balococ, Lingayen town, and Reynaldo Delfin, 43, of Barangay Amamperez, Villasis – were gunned down Jan. 16.

Sison was collecting firewood when an unidentified suspect shot him repeatedly with a Cal. 45 pistol.

Delfin was buying cigarettes at a convenience store when a suspect identified as Primitivo Barnachea, 63, who is also a farmer, shot him. Jonathan Barnachea, who was tending the store, was hit by a stray bullet and was hospitalized.

Meanwhile, Anthony Perez, 39, an employee of PhilHealth was wounded when unidentified gunmen shot him along Barangay Matalava in West Lingayen town at 10:40 p.m.  – Eva Visperas and Cesar Ramirez


6 dead, 3 hurt in NL road mishaps

By Raymund Catindig and Eva Visperas

TUGUEGARAO CITY – Six persons died, including a couple, and three others were seriously injured in separate road accidents in Cagayan, Ilocos Sur and Pangasinan Thursday.

Santiago Visario and his wife Genoveva were killed in the first accident when their tricycle, loaded with vegetables, collided with a Mitsubishi Montero driven by businessman Carlito Acena along the highway in Barangay Immayus Norte in San Juan, Ilocos Sur, according to Senior Police Officer 2 Romulo Aguilar.

The couple was thrown several meters away because of the impact.

Acena surrendered to authorities.

In Gonzaga, Cagayan, farmer Emer Arellano, 43, died at the scene when the tricycle he was riding collided with a motorcycle driven by Edmar Arellano, 40, along the highway in Barangay Calayan. Arellano died while being treated in the hospital, said Police Officer 3 Ericson Raquel.

Police said the driver of the tricycle, Jomar Agcaoili, remains confined in the hospital.

In Dagupan City in Pangasinan, two persons died and two others were injured when a Mitsubishi Montero rammed into a Toyota Corolla in Barangay Carangalaan around 1 a.m.

The fatalities were identified as Willie Agsaoay, 42, who was driving the Corolla; and his passenger, Edison Meneses, 21.

Another passenger, Jeofrey Agpalasin, 31, was brought to the Dagupan Doctors Villaflor Memorial Hospital. Mark Patrick Jacinto, the driver of the Mitsubishi Montero, is confined at the Region 1 Medical Center.   


Murder charges filed vs Turqueza slay suspect

BANGUED, Abra – The suspect who allegedly shot to death a newsman who also was an official the Dept. of Justice here was charged for murder filed at the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor on Jan. 23.

The police’s Provincial Special Investigation Task Group Turqueza  and the victim’s lawyer, filed the criminal complaint  against the suspect identified as Jay Jay Tineza Tugadi of Tayum Abra.

 Jacinto”Jack” Testado Turqueza, 47,  administrative officer V of Office of Provincial Prosecutor here, resident of Afrememco Subdivision, Calaba here was shot to death along Taft St, Zone 5 in front of Mike’s Department Store evening of Oct. 8.

Chief Supt. Isagani R. Nerez, regional police director said filing of charges against Tugadi was part of police peacekeeping effort in Abra which was rocked by violent crimes.

Nerez earlier formed “Abra Shield,” a comprehensive police program in Abra which included intensified anti-crime operations to prevent and control crime, account for loose firearms and neutralize criminal gangs in the province.

Nerez also warned abusive and uncooperative local executives that police shall exhaust judicial remedies to counter the latters’ actions.


Groups push casino, legal gambling in Baguio City

By Paul Rillorta

BAGUIO CITY – Establishment of a casino or any form of legalized gambling is now being pushed here to entertain foreign and local tourists who frequent the city.

Mayor Mauricio Domogan bared this saying some sectors revived the idea of operating anew a casino in the city but this should first be decided by the people.

The operation of entertainment or gaming complex to some sectors is one way of maximizing the tourism industry in the city which can bring financial benefit to the local economy, an idea debated by moralists groups. 

“Personally, I am against any form of gambling and my stand in this issue is to let the people decide whether they like it or not, this should be subjected to a public hearing so we can get the sentiments of the people of Baguio,” Domogan said.

However, the mayor noted the absence of an ordinance prohibiting the establishment of a casino in the city and stating the existing national law allowing PAGCOR to grant franchises to any interested entrepreneur to operate either sweepstakes, lotto, bingo, casino and the like within the country.

Pagcor however is required to secure from local government units, a Certificate of No Objection prior to its establishment of a gaming complex. 

Baguio Casino was earlier operated at the former Pines Hotel exclusively for tourists despite strong opposition by the city government then on its operation until the building was gutted by fire.

It was reopened at the former Hyatt Terraces Hotel but was destroyed during the 1990 killer earthquake and since then was not re-established.

As per records, the city government is entitled to 3% share from the gross earnings from the operation of the Baguio Casino exclusively for developmental projects.

In 2003, the operation of a casino within Camp John Hay upon the request of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) was passed and approved subject to the condition that only tourists and members of Camp John Hay would be allowed to enter and participate in gaming activities inside the complex.

The same was however repealed in City Resolution Number 131 series of 2009 after concerned groups publicly reiterated their opposition.

Domogan said, “despite disallowing the operation of a casino in the city, people still go to other places to play which boils down to values.”

The mayor noted strengthening character formation in the home, the schools, the church and media in educating residents against the evils of gambling will be the best defence against these vices. 

Recently, the mayor ordered the Baguio City Police Office to stop all kinds of illegal gambling in the city including those in the guise of fund-raising activities and close-down lotto and E-Bingo outlets which do not have the pertinent business permits.

Authorities also encouraged residents to report any illegal gambling activity being operated within the city for proper action to strengthen the anti-illegal gambling drive of the city government. 


Weekend hikers’ limit up to April on Mount Pulag already reached

KABAYAN, Benguet — Reservation for slots to go up Mount Pulag here, the country’s  third highest peak, the highest in Luzon, had reached its maximum for all weekends this January until April, which is the peak of climbing season.

Mount Pulag Protected Area superintendent Emerita Albas bared this saying those who haven’t been listed on the weekend hike can no longer be allowed to go up, even if they are already at the ranger’s station.

However, Albas said climbers have an option to schedule a weekday trek.

Albas said Mt. Pulag has a maximum capacity of 350 persons at one time.

She said this is part of the preservation and protection measure being undertaken to prevent the destruction of the protected area.

This is also because there are only two camp sites where people can set-up their tents for the night.

The summit, 2,922 meters above sea level, is also only able to accommodate the number, which will allow climber to see and experience the majestic view of the sunrise atop a sea of clouds. The cloud formations are best during this time of year.

Records show that in 2013 there were 16,332 who went up Mt. Pulag. From January to September 2014, there were already 17,105 trekkers.

Mt. Pulag, right in the boundary of Benguet, Ifugao and Nueva Vizcaya, had attained a status as a favorite climbing spot of hikers, especially now that it can be reached easily.

The road leading to the ranger station in Bokod, Benguet from Baguio City via the Benguet-Vizcaya Road has been completely paved.

There are four major trails going to the summit, the Ambangeg trail via Bokod ranger station; Akiki trail via Kabayan town, Tawangan trail in Bokod and the Ambaguio trail from Nueva Vizcaya, with Ambangeg trail being the most.

All hikers are required to register at the Ambangeg Ranger’s station for documentation and security purposes. There, they will be required to attend a briefing of the Mt. Pulag National Park management of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources on rules, policies, traditions and emergency protocol.

Albas said climbers return to see Mt. Pulag because of the “top of the world” view and feeling at the summit. The journey up is through a mossy forest, the mystical grasslands, that is coupled with the unique mountain cold, which can reach near-freezing levels. It is studded with dwarf bamboos and many attest to the mystical air of the mountain.

Danny Galati, meteorologist of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) in Cordillera, said that Mt. Pulag temperatures are four degrees Celsius lower than Baguio City because it has a higher elevation.


Manaoag Shrine soon to be pilgrimage site by law

MANAOG, Pangasinan – A bill that seeks to make Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of Manaoag in Pangasinan, a pilgrimage site will soon become a law, Pangasinan fourth district Rep. Georgina de Venecia  said.

The House of Representatives committee on tourism passed House Bill 4481, De Venecia told local media.

The church will be formally declared as Basilica Minore next month. Pope Francis gave the title Minor Basilica to the shrine last October.

“In view of this recognition and its prominence as a pilgrims’ destination, it’s about time that the government do something to take care of the welfare and protection of the throngs of Catholic devotees, who represent 80 percent of our country’s population, who have and will continue to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of The Rosary in Manaoag,” De Venecia, whose congressional turf includes Manaoag, said.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines said the shrine is the parish church of the archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan, which is an affiliate of the Papal Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.


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