The forty niners

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Just when election issues have somewhat subsided, in the aftermath of the May 13, 2019 local elections, forty nine pine trees, mostly fully grown, were cut down like what thieves do in the eerie silence of the night, all in the name of land development.

Online petitions may have preceded the dastardly act — how else can anyone describe what happened — imploring no less than PRRD himself to spare the hapless trees standing in the way, when the merciless perpetrated the sordid endeavor. The social networks reacted quick, expressing sadness that such an act would even be considered, anger that what was being sought to be prevented just happened amid the campaign frenzy, disgust that the supposed protectors would become the perpetrators.

Tomorrow, the Honorables, our environment-loving crusaders who harangued us voters how dear they hold Baguio’s environment will hear from the tree-cutters, not so much perhaps how grand and grandiose their development plans are, but why in the first place trees should even be felled in so treacherous a way. Of course, it’s just right that the City Council get to know the 5 Ws and 1 H of the whole extravaganza, knowing how quick any Honorable would come to the rescue of fallen trees. Fine, let’s get into the bottom of things, but let it not be swept under the rug the seeming confused state our environment protectors are swirling about, when in a face-off with cold realities on the ground.

Just about three months back, no less than Secretary Cimatu has lamented how badly Baguio’s environment has degraded, that the next axe may have to be used, like what happened to Boracay, like what is happening at Manila Bay. He was even quoted to have batted for No Build Zones to be proclaimed in certain strategic areas of the city, if only to stem the tide, and bring sanity back into the mess which has built up through the years.
And then, all of a sudden, like a thief in the night, 49 fully grown pine trees would just be cut down, all because a land development project necessitates it, regardless whatever environmental damage would ensue. It should be interesting to know what environmental conditions have been imposed to minimize the foreseeable damage. How many saplings again are required per grown tree that’s cut down? A 100 to 1 ratio? How many of the pine tree saplings the commercial do-gooders have grown in the last decade of tree-cutting spree? Do we even have an inventory of sorts, something that can guide us in upgrading tree-planting activities?

Fine, let’s have more pronouncements from conscience-stricken environment protectors, the last one from no less than the good Secretary’s alter ego hereabouts, warning us locals to care more for what remains of the natural environment, even casting the giant shadow of corruption charges laid on their doorstep. Hellow! Please say that again. After all, hearing it all over may yet dissipate the brickbats cast in your doorstep for the fallen forty niners.

To reiterate: what can we do, individually and collectively, to accord environmental concerns the seriousness of purpose they have long deserve, for which time-bound plans of solutions and actions can be forged early on? No doubt that we want the future ahead be well-secured, well enough for our children and theirs to have something precious to enjoy, to cherish, and to hand over to generations next.

For now, the time is up for all the fine talk about what’s good and desirable for our environment. We are one community who care deeply enough that from the 3.8 million trees we had just a decade ago, we only have about 2.1 million left, making us wonder what happened to all the saplings that have been planted all through the years. A shared solidarity is all we have, plus voices that can besiege the eardrums till we get their sordid faces black and blue. A unity of purpose is all we have, plus the pure intent to clean up the mess of forlorn, fallen years.

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