By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — Project Save 182 vows to go back to the streets and at the same time exhaust all legal means available to foil the expansion project of a giant mall here despite the dismissal of cases they have filed against the said mall.
In an interview, Project Save 182 spokesperson Karlo Altamonte said his group would also launch protest actions and rally more people to support the call to save the trees and the city’s environment. He added that they will also rally support from all over the country and even the world to support their cause.
The decision signed by Judge Antonio Esteves on December 3 stated “WHEREFORE, judgement is hereby rendered DISMISSING the Complaints dated February 23, 2012 and April 13, 2012 and the Amended Urgent Petition to Cite Defendant for Contempt dated April 20, 2012. The Temporary Environmental Protection Order dated April 10, 2012 is hereby LIFTED.”
Esteves went on leave on December 4 to undego a heart bypass. He is expected to be back sometime in February.
“While we in the Save 182 movement respect the decision handed down by the honorable court, we strongly disagree with the same and vow to exhaust all other legal remedies available to us in our struggle to stand up and speak for the trees on Luneta Hill, which stand defenseless against a corporate entity’s apparent insatiable hunger for more money,” the group’s statement read.
Altamonte stressed that they do not agree that removing 182 pine trees on Luneta Hill will not cause irreversible damage to the city’s environment. He added that the mall’s proposed sky garden will never compensate for the trees that will be removed. He also added that the mall failed to follow necessary procedures in securing their permits.
He reiterated that that Baguio City is frequented by tourists both local and international not because of malls or big buildings but because of the pine trees. He stressed that city’s foremost attraction are the pine trees and that city officials at present seem to forget that.
Altamonte further stressed that the group was surprised at how fast the court came out with the decision as they just submitted their final response on November 29 and the decision came out three days after.
Cordillera Peoples Alliance Secretary General Abigail Anongos on the other hand is not at all surprised with the decision. “It is not surprising. Rarely did the court rule in favor of the people’s clamor,” she said.
Anongos, however, stressed that the dismissal of the case is still a victory of the people of Baguio who stood for what is they thought was right and just from the start. “What is legal is not always right and just,” she reiterated.
Moreover, Altamonte disclosed that the tree cutting permit of the mall already expired adding that for now the trees are safe. He also said that they are closely monitoring the mall’s possible application for a new permit to make sure that it will go through proper procedure.
As of press time, Nordis still awaits representative give the mall’s response and comments on the matter. Nordis has also tried to get confirmation from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Cordillera on the alleged status of the mall’s tree cutting permits and application for new permits. # nordis.net