The Inbox

Challenge 160: a protest walk to save Baguio’s pine trees

By Michael A. Bengwayan, VERA Files

Challenge 160 route

Baguio City---“No mountain is too high, no trouble too difficult to overcome...”

This saying might as well describe the  resumption of  series of protest actions to be  staged by environmentalists and residents against SM City Baguio’s plan to remove more than a hundred pine trees on Luneta Hill to make way for a parking lot and entertainment plaza.

On Sunday (Feb.17), about a hundred environmentalists will begin their 160-kilometer protest walk, dubbed “Challenge 160,”  from Sagada, Mountain Province up to Session Road in this city.  During the six-day walk, hikers are expected to trek mountains, some of which are more than 2,000 meters above sea level.

According to organizers,  Sagada was chosen as starting point “because it is a place where people love their trees and forests, and it is a known tourist haven because of its forests, which are being managed sustainably through an indigenous agroforestry practice called ‘lakon.’ ”

They decided to launch “Challenge 160”  after they failed to get a Permanent Environment Protection Order (PEPO) from the court last December that would have prevented SM Baguio from further removing 133 pine trees, some of which are more than 100 years old. They have appealed said unfavorable ruling of  Judge Antonio Estevez of Branch 15 of the Baguio Regional Trial Court to the Court of Appeals.

Occupy SM Baguio 2012The destruction of trees in this city has sparked a year-long protest and rallies that began on Jan. 8, 2012. Already, 49 trees on Luneta Hill have been destroyed by SM through wrong earth-balling (transplanting).

An on-line signature campaign to save Baguio’s pine trees has gathered almost 8,000 signatures worldwide.

Some protesters even wrote  President Benigno Aquino III, asking for his intervention, saying: “Mr. President, we, the undersigned, are appealing to your known sense of environmental justice, to please prevent this from happening. It is only you now who can stop the impending death of these priceless trees.”

While some local officials favor the removal of the trees, the protesters have gained the support of the Roman Catholic Church in the region led by Bishop Carlito Cenzon and the association of religious groups in the city.

SM Baguio plan in place of treesConsumers have been boycotting the mall to further advance their cause. Rock star Sting had been persuaded not to hold his December 2012 concert at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena---one of the malls owned by SM, after learning about the planned removal of hundreds of pine trees in this city by the mall chain.

“The ecological, cultural, historical and aesthetic value of the trees are the dominant reasons why  the people of Baguio do not want their trees to be cut,” organizers of the protest walk said. “The trees help provide oxygen and absorb CO2 and other persistent greenhouse gasses in the city, which has been named by World Bank as already polluted.”

They announced the following six legs of the protest walk which, they added, are subject to change: first leg (Sagada to Mount Data); second leg (Mount Data to Natubleng); third leg (Natubleng to Sayangan); fourth leg (Sayangan to Caliking); fifth leg (Caliking to La Trinidad); and last leg (La Trinidad to Session Road in front of SM).

“There will be a ‘Salubungan’ with those who cannot make the march on the last day near the Church of the Resurrection, Magsaysay Avenue,” they added. “A prayer rally and concert will end the march in the afternoon at the Cathedral grounds.”

Organizers said supporters need not join the whole length of the 160-kilometer protest walk “if you can’t, for one reason or another.” They, however, urged people to join the last leg, especially upon entering the city up to SM.

They also reminded participants to bring their own gears and take care of their own provisions.

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”)


Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • From Space, Typhoon Maysak's Eye Looks Like a Black Hole (Photo)
    From Space, Typhoon Maysak's Eye Looks Like a Black Hole (Photo)

    It seemed like a black hole from a Sci-Fi movie," NASA astronaut Terry Virts wrote on Twitter. Virts and his fellow astronauts have been posting pictures of the typhoon, which is expected to hit the Philippines this weekend if it doesn't change course. "Commands respect even from space," wrote Samantha Cristoforetti, an Italian astronaut with the European Space Agency who launched into space with Virts in November. As of 11 a.m. EdT today (1500 GMT), the super typhoon was 223 miles (359 km) …

  • Muslim group calls for universal peace
    Muslim group calls for universal peace

    As predominantly Catholic Philippines and the rest of the Christian world observe the Holy Week, peace advocates like the Young Muslim Professionals Network (YMPN) are appealing to Filipinos of various creeds and persuasion to embrace the universal message of kindness, love and peace. The group issued the call as peace negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front teeter due to the Mamasapano incident where members of the rebel group killed 44 police commandos on a …

  • Ex-WB exec pushes BBL passage
    Ex-WB exec pushes BBL passage

    A former World Bank official has warned of dire consequences for the Philippines if the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is not passed into law. Nigel Roberts, former director on conflict, security and development, said that more conflict could occur without the BBL. “It takes about 15 years to get back to pre-conflict GDP growth rates, and 20 years for trade to recover,” Roberts said in his blog at the World Bank website. The World Bank estimated that economic losses amounted to $10 …

  • Despite typhoon, summer is here
    Despite typhoon, summer is here

    Super Typhoon Chedeng roared toward Luzon as the weather bureau announced the official start of summer in the country yesterday. The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) announced yesterday the official start of the dry or summer season in the country due to the termination of the cold northeast monsoon. “The general public is advised to take precautionary measures to minimize heat stress and take note of the need in optimizing the daily use of …

  • Noy told: Just answer the questions
    Noy told: Just answer the questions

    Just answer the 20 questions. The Makabayan bloc of seven party-list representatives made this appeal to President Aquino yesterday after his spokesman claimed the Chief Executive has already answered most of the questions posed by the militant lawmakers regarding the Mamasapano incident. For instance, he said the President has not yet explained why he allowed then suspended Philippine National Police chief Director General Alan Purisima to take the lead in Oplan Exodus or the mission to …

  • DFA: Malaysia paying rent for Sabah
    DFA: Malaysia paying rent for Sabah

    Malaysia does not acknowledge the Philippine claim over Sabah but the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) maintained yesterday that the Malaysian government is paying rent for Sabah, indicating it rightfully belongs to the Philippines. The Malay Mail Online reported that Malaysian Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said Malaysia has not and does not acknowledge the Philippine claim over Sabah when asked by media about the reported offer of the Philippine government to downgrade its Sabah …

  • 63 OFWs returning from Yemen
    63 OFWs returning from Yemen

    Sixty-three overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are set to return home from war-torn Yemen, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said yesterday. Baldoz said the licensed recruiters of the OFWs have assured the government of their immediate repatriation. Administrator Hans Cacdac of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration has ordered the recruitment agencies to fulfill their obligation to bring home the OFWs. Baldoz called on Filipinos still in Yemen to avail themselves of the government’s …

  • Jinggoy gets furlough for shoulder checkup
    Jinggoy gets furlough for shoulder checkup

    Despite opposition from ombudsman lawyers, the Sandiganbayan yesterday granted detained Sen. Jinggoy Estrada’s request to undergo a medical checkup at the Cardinal Santos Memorial Hospital. Estrada was allowed to undergo a medical examination for pain in his left shoulder from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. The senator was ordered to shoulder the expenses incurred by the Philippine National Police in  escorting him. In a pleading filed Monday with the anti-graft court’s Fifth Division, Estrada’s lawyers …


Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Poll Choice Options