Philippines: Protest Against Removal of Trees by Shopping Mall

The plan of SM City Baguio shopping mall in north Philippines to remove more than 100 trees to make way for a new parking lot and entertainment site has been greeted by massive protests from concerned citizens and various cause-oriented groups. SM is owned by the Philippines’ richest businessman.

Thousands marched through the streets of Baguio City last January 20, to defend the trees and call on the public to boycott SM City Baguio. The hashtag #ProtectBaguiotrees became the top Twitter trend in the country that day.

Take Me to the Riot makes the Joni Mitchel song refrain “They paved paradise to put up a parking lot” the starting point of her musings on the issue:

Funnily, it feels like the entire history of that mountain is all about uprooting and displacement. Tribes – like the Kankanaey, Igorots, and Ifugao – were uprooted from the heart of the city and were displaced to other places. Some had to move to other areas in Benguet.

These people, like those trees, have been around older than any SM Baguio, 7-11 or McDonald’s in Session rd. But commercialism, in this case parking lots, are always stronger–enough to uproot and displace those who have known the land longer and maybe even more intimately.

Protest in front of SM Baguio. Photo from @KrissyAngela

Protest in front of SM Baguio. Photo from @KrissyAngela

A Mommy Who Tries Living Life to the Fullest!, inspired by the pro-environment Wall-E 3D animation, points out the lack of significant difference between uprooting and transferring the trees and cutting them down.

These promises are good if you don't know what happened to the past trees that were being earth balled. Dr. Michael Bengwayan (executive director of Cordillera Ecological Center-PINE TREE) said that, for the 497 pine trees that were being earth-balled by Camp John Hay Development Corp. last 1994, only less than 20% survived and those not dead were showing signs of deteriorating. So, we should expect that out of the 187 Pine Trees that will be uprooted, more or less only 30 trees will survive.

Baguio City residents decry the lack of public consultations and are questioning the issuance of permit to the mall for the removal of the trees. Student writers hit the government's connivance with big business:

Worse, even the current administration sanctions this one-sided step and seems to refuse in protecting the interests of the larger population. President Aquino along with city officials themselves shows no disapproval of this plan and the DENR issued the permit for the implementation.

Stretching the Symbolic meanwhile concludes that the cause is ultimately against the “world capitalist system”:

This is not just a battle for the trees, or against SM corporations and their corporate greed; this is a battle for our people, of Baguio and the country, against the large system where tree-cutting projects like this are just one of the numerous evil manifestations. This is fight against a system where things are done for the benefit of a few and at the expense of the many.


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