By ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
BAGUIO CITY — Rep. Raymond V. Palatino appeared at the regular session of the City Council here on Monday where he shared that a Congressional inquiry, as sought in a bill he filed, will push through to look into the issues surrounding the cutting and earth-balling of trees by SM Baguio at the Luneta Hill here.Palatino shared that this inquiry, which would happen next month, aims to look into the various issues connected on the processes of SMs acquisition of environmental compliance (ECC) certificate and permit to cut or earth-ball 182 trees at the said hill. From these experiences, legislative measures can be adopted to correct any lapses that had and that would contribute to strengthen existing environmental laws.
Among the issues he pointed out: if there were consultations with the residents of this city and if there are endorsements coming from the concerned local government units as mandated by our statutes.
Palatino cited that present environmental laws mandated that ECC or permits are granted after the conduct of public consultations to the affected residents and a requisite of obtaining endorsement from the concerned local government after public consultations.
The author of House Bill 2069 said, the bill will look into the “violations” incurred on the permit issuance on the tree cutting and earth-balling of SM at the Luneta Hill.
It can be recalled that the plan to earth-ball and cut 182 trees by SM at the Luneta Hill here sparked public outraged as oppositions branded the move as anti-environment and done with irregularities. Their leaders filed a case in court to stop the said project, where lately, a temporary environmental protection order (TEPO) was issued. Their request for an injunction or permanent stoppage of the project is still pending in court though.
Palatino appeared at the City Council through a resolution authored by Councilors Karminn Dinney Yangot and Isabelo Cosalan Jr. and after the August Body suspended its rules to accommodate the youthful member of the House as representative of the Kabataan Partylist.
As cases were already filed by oppositors in the court, a City Councilor asked Palatino if it is not against the subjudice rule that the House inquiry on the SM tree cutting and earth-balling will still happen.
Palatino clarified that there was no court cases yet when he filed the bill and he invoked that public interest is at stake here. A human rights lawyer clarified that the right to be consulted – which is the main issue at hand and which is mandated by the constitution and various laws – is supreme over the said subjudice rule. “Else this subjudice rule can be utilized by vested interest by all means to push through for a project and transgress the right of the people to be consulted by mere technicality,” he explained in an interview.
In the said appearance by Palatino, it was learned that the City Council has not acted on the issue as they are allegedly on the process of studying it. “Our decision will come after this study,” quipped Vice-Mayor Daniel Farinas. # nordis.net