By ALDWIN QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — Participants to the first Baguio Environmental summit came up with a Baguio declaration geared towards reclaiming the rights to land, resources and ecological sustainability.
Around 200 members of different non government organizations, cause-oriented groups and individuals attended the forum as part of the decentralized celebrations of the Cordillera Day 2012 (CD 2012) here at the city with a theme “Fight for Our Land, Life and Rights”. Organized by the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) in partnership with the University of the Philippines Baguio, Cordillera Ecological Center (CEC), Cordillera Women’s Action, Research Center (CWEARC), Baguio Vermi Growers, Tebteba Foundation and Open Space, the summit was also themed as “In Harmony with Nature and People’s well being.”
According to the Declaration, the city’s environment is presently in a state of degradation where its everyday impacts are being experienced by the people. In the presentation of the Baguio environmental situation of Maria Lorena Cariño Cleto of the Tebteba Foundation, Baguio is suffering from poor ecosystem with the fast dwindling of its forest cover and drying river system being worsened by mismanagement by the city government and concerned agencies. Cleto said that the city’s natural resources cannot already support the needs of the highly urbanized city.
In the presentation of Cleto, 61 percent of the total land area of Baguio is already composed of residential land use. She added that only 12.38 percent of Baguio land is a least vacant forested areas and 2.57 percent of lands are active forest and watershed areas.
The participants expressed their acknowledgment in the said declaration that Baguio’s carrying capacity has now exceeded. “We are concerned that the limited land and resources of Baguio City, originally indigenous ancestral territory and designed as a Colonial hill station to serve a population of 25,000 are now stretched beyond its limits.
Geraldine Cacho of the Tongtongan ti Umili (TTU, a Metro Baguio chapter of the CPA) said that with the booming population of Baguio comes the growing number of urban poor. She said that as the people of Baguio increase, food insecurity heightened as employment in the city cannot go with the growth. People she explained come in the city hoping for better lives leaving their original homes being destroyed by intense mining operations and terrorized by militarization in the country sides. She said these people looking for new dwellings in the city end up adding to the number of informal settlers.
Dr. Michael Bengwayan of CEC said the people of Baguio is suffering from the stink of the garbage problem. He said that the trash nightmare of the city is caused by the poor waste management and political will of the city administrators.
In the said summit, representatives of organizations and other institutions also presented initiatives on environmental protection and nurture. Daisy Bagni of the Organisasyon dagiti Nakurapay nga Umili ti Syudad-Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Ornus-Kadamay) shared the indigenous practice of “Ayyew” which simply means do not be wasteful. Bagni said that the practice originating from the Kankanaey employs recycling, reusing and reducing wastes. Sr. Alice Sobreviñas of the Baguio Vermi Growers explained the process of using African Night Crawlers or vermiworms in reducing wastes.
The participants were distributed in workshop groups on land use, garbage and resource management where draft resolutions and recommendations were made. Later, said outputs served as guidelines to the making of the Baguio declaration.
A cultural parade and march rally was conducted where the participants went to the regional office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR-CAR) and the Baguio City Hall to submit copies of the said declaration. A program followed at the peoples park to culminate the CD celebration in the city of Baguio. # nordis.net