The Fallen Forty Nine 2

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While everyone, including us, were so disturbed over the case of the fallen forty nine — yes, the hapless, muted trees that Moldex, on the strength of a DENR-CAR permit, felled down amid the election campaign frenzy — about a thousand saplings of pine tree, bamboo, and other fast-growing species will be having their finest day in life today. That may well be the breath of fresh air that must be sweeping all over the city by now, no doubt buoyed up by a new sense of hope, rising, swelling up in high expectations that something good and great is in the offing.

Talk of tree caring, how else can one explain that this early, Arbor Day seems to have gained an upsurge of sorts that’s everyday people coming in all walks of life — family people, husbands towed by the better half, children out on a nature-loving Sundate, students, grade schoolers, hard-working employees and managers out on something like a company treat. How they have responded on so short a notice from organizers still agog on festive air is a heart-wrenching narrative worth retelling for all the sweat and tears worthily endured.

The saplings will be planted in various sites by about that number of tree-planters whose desire is nothing less than to re-grow Baguio. Just organized barely a month ago, they have volunteered to do their share under the acronym MBM, Movement for a Better Baguio, most of whom were supporters of our new Mayor Benjie Magalong, who have been burning up the social networks exchanging instructions left and right. In time, tree lovers enlisted for the cause. Planting experts joined in, from DENR, from CEPMO, no doubt a worthy atonement for the Moldex mess.

As new Mayor BBM would say, Salute to all of you guys!

Today’s festive, fun-filled tree-planting activity will no doubt dissipate into oblivion what happened in last Monday’s session of the City Council that practically gave the culprits behind the fallen forty nine all the time in their life to explain the 5 Ws and 1 H of the eerie episode. The questions raised by our Honorables and the answers given by the tree-cutters may well have been craftily woven into a script, that was so telling because not much had been told.

Even known environmentalists who came out prepared to ask citizen questions were reduced to be mere watchers of the proceedings, to merely observe how things would roll out. Surely, this must have distressed them all the more, sensing that they’d be taken for the usual parliamentary ride. Something must have really been afoot, even more so when the Moldex rep couldn’t even say what happened to the fallen trees, to what government office were the logs brought in. Was it part of the arrangement, whatever that must have been, that whoever carted the logs has the imprimatur to do as he pleases with his treasure? Oh well!

On that day, we would have found out why, amid the campaign frenzy two weeks back, forty nine pine trees, mostly fully grown, had to be stealthily cut down, just like what thieves do in the eerie silence of the night, all in the name of land development. We would have learned much of the bureaucratic process that big-time developers with high-impact projects have to go through, just to secure the required government permits. We would have known what short-cuts were employed and by whom for such a dastardly act to materialize, right under the noses of government authorities mandated to protect, preserve, conserve, and give the utmost care, to an environmental resource so vital for Baguio’s natural growth.

Which is why environmental crusaders — like you and I and the rest of us — should remain steadfast in our resolve to get to the bottom of things, because at the bottom of the environmental mess thrust upon us is no less than a shady convergence of interests hardly protective of our environment.

C’mon folks, we’re always willing to listen, we’re always just here striving to keep an open mind, we’re always struggling to keep our voices in check, like reasonable men and women would, even when the challenge to hold it all in seems huge enough to handle.

We do know that protecting our environment, zealously shielding it from further depredations, is a tough task every step of the way. At day’s end, we’d need something of a sacred covenant from our government bureaucrats to work in hand with us citizens in securing so dwindling an environmental resource. As many of us plant trees today, please, please spare the hapless trees that may be standing in the way of high-priced development projects. Ever heard of green engineering? Why not make the creative architects in the employ of developers to build around the existing trees, as every green architecture practitioner would? No more needless, merciless, heartless cutting of trees. No more vile acts shamelessly perpetrated in the dead of the night, away from prying eyes, unseen under cover of darkness.

And lest it be buried under by tons of paperwork crafted to explain what happened, can someone please tell us why 49 — not 50 or more trees — have to applied for to be felled down. Fine, let’s get into the very bottom of things, but let us not be detracted by syruppy assurances that everything was in accord with governing regulations, national and local. It just doesn’t make sense whenever acts like these are bankrolled by legal niceties.

And while we’re at it, teeth on the flesh, shouldn’t we know what environmental conditions have been imposed to minimize the foreseeable damage that tree-cutting sprees like this would inflict. 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 planted in the last decade have in fact grown by this time? Do we even have an inventory of sorts, something that can guide us in upgrading tree-planting activities?

Today, we plant trees. Today, let’s give our remaining trees wherever we are the tightest hug ever and shield them. It’s been that way since during our growing up years. Time to give trees the payback they deserve from us.