BAGUIO CITY (Mar. 28) — City councilors here are opposing a proposal to construct a commercial building over the forested lot between the Baguio City Convention Center and the Court of Appeals.
According to the proposed resolution submitted by Councilor Richard Cariño, SM Invesrment Corporation (SMIC) has plans to construct a commercial building over the said site owned by the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS).
LAST PINE STAND. These 30 year-old pine trees at the Baguio Convention Center premises are now threatened by the alleged proposal to erect a new commercial hub right on the site. SM Investment Corporation has reportedly been allowed by the Government Service Insurance System to build the structure. Photo by Cye Reyes/NORDIS
The GSIS office reportedly confirmed that a proposal by SMIC exists and was submitted in the central office, but the field office in Baguio City is not aware of it.
Classified as “institutional” in the city’s zoning ordinance, the said piece of land cannot be utilized by any private entity, thus making SMIC’s building proposal a violation of the said ordinance.
The resolution also said that “any cutting of trees will irreparably damage the area,” and “any permit to cut trees issued by any national government agency is a violation of Sections 26 and 27 of the Local Government Code.”
As this developed, three more councilors joined the call for the preservation of a forested lot as Councilors Fred Bagbagen, Isabelo Cosalan Jr. and Elaine Sembrano joined Cariño’s call “to oppose the removal of the pine forest” in the area to give way to the construction of a commercial structure reportedly now being worked out.
In a proposed resolution now being studied by the council committee on ecology and environmental protection, the councilors said removing the woodland would have adverse environmental effects as apart from being one of the few remaining pine stands in the area, it supplies part of the water needs of the city.
“The said pine forest forms an integral part of the Camp 8 Forest and Watershed which feeds the water aquifers supplying the Camp 8 Pumping Station of the Baguio Water District which provides part of the water supply of the City of Baguio,” the resolution added.
The area “which stands within the Government Center Reservation was planted to pine trees more than three decades ago under the direction of then First Lady Imelda Marcos who was also Minister of Human Settlements at the time, hence, it is a government forest.”
They said the Constitution mandates that “forests are inalienable natural resources of the State.”
“Public interest and welfare demands that the pine forest at the Baguio City Convention Center area should be preserved and even enhanced and not destroyed to give way to commercial development,” they said.
Reports said the area is being eyed by the SM Investments Corporation for development into yet another commercial hub. # Cye Reyes for NORDIS, with a report from Aileen P. Refuerzo