Setting Core Values as Bedrock for Baguio’s Ecological Future

Setting Core Values as Bedrock for Baguio’s Ecological Future
(Paper presented to the First Baguio Environmental Summit, April 23, 2012, University of the Philippines, Baguio City, Philippines)
By Michael A. Bengwayan, Ph.D. Environmental Resource Management Philippines
Director, Cordillera Ecological Center,
Nature is the first ethical teacher of man. If you don’t believe this, then, you will not understand. The very reason why Baguio is mired in serious environmental problems is due to the lack of understanding this fact. People were born in an age when people loved the things of nature and spoke to it as though it had a soul. The woods were formerly temples of the deities, and even now simple country folk dedicate a tall tree to a God with the ritual of olden times; and we adore sacred groves and the very silence that reigns in them no less devoutly than images that gleam in gold and ivory. In the stillness of the mighty woods, man is made aware of the divine.
Thus, ecology and spirituality are fundamentally connected, because deep ecological awareness, ultimately, is spiritual awareness. Every social transformation … has rested on a new metaphysical and ideological base; or rather, upon deeper stirrings and intuitions whose rationalised expression takes the form of a new picture of the cosmos and the nature of man.
Sadly, in its haste and yearning for so-called development and progress, the City of Baguio is destroying the very thing that makes it alive—its environment. Dirty politics, corrupt politicians, poor and improper planning and management have turned the city into garbage piles, scarred landscape, deforested woodlands, atmosphere with heavy pollutants, dirty creeks and rivers and destroyed natural formations.
The entry of SM, the biggest corporation has turned things for the worse. And maybe for better. Trumpeting for a parking lot, it wanted to cut 182 trees which I resented and which led me to organize massive demonstrations and protests against the tree cutting and planned earth-balling. The protests are already nationwide and nowhere than now have people in Baguio been more galvanized to fight for their trees and environment.
There is reason to hope that the ecology-based revitalist movement we started– Save 182 and Save 133– will seek to achieve their ends in true tradition. The main hope for changing Baguio’s present course may lie … in the development of a world view drawn partly from ecological principles – that give human face and human heart.
There is a must for Baguio’s citizenry to relearn ecology. A new kind of ecology. That of deep ecology. The Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess coined the phrase deep ecology to describe deep ecological awareness. Deep ecology is the foundation of a branch of philosophy known as ecophilosophy, Arne Naess prefers the term ecosophy, that deals with the ethics of Gaia.
Shallow ecology is anthropocentric, or human-centred. It views humans as above or outside of nature, as the source of all value, and ascribes only instrumental, or ‘use’, value to nature. Deep ecology does not separate humans – or anything else – from the natural environment. It does see the world not as a collection of isolated objects but as a network of phenomena that are fundamentally interconnected and interdependent. Deep ecology recognizes the intrinsic value of all living beings and views human beings as just one particular strand in the web of life.
Care flows naturally if the ‘self’ is widened and deepened so that protection of free Nature is felt and conceived as protection of ourselves … Just as we need no morals to make us breathe … [so] if your ‘self’ in the wide sense embraces another being, you need no moral exhortation to show care … You care for yourself without feeling any moral pressure to do it … If reality is like it is experienced by the ecological self, our behaviour naturally and beautifully follows norms of strict environmental ethics.
If we acquire deep ecological awareness we become intuitively aware, ineffable knowledge.
Logic does not lead us from the fact that we are an integral part of the web of life to certain norms of how we should live. However if we have deep ecological awareness, or experience, of being part of the web of life, then we will (as opposed to should) be inclined to care for all living nature. Indeed, we can scarcely refrain from responding in this way.
Isaiah 24:4-6:
The earth mourns and withers,
the world languishes and withers;
the heavens languish together with the earth.
The earth lies polluted
under its inhabitants;
for they have transgressed the laws,
violated the statutes,
broken the everlasting covenant.
Therefore a curse devours the earth,
and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt;
therefore the inhabitants of the earth are scorched,
and few men are left.
In vernacular societies, spirituality and awareness of the natural world is part of everyday existence. The main hope for changing Baguio’s present course may lie … in the development of a world view drawn partly from ecological principles

The central idea of Deep Ecology is that we are part of the earth, rather than apart and separate from it.
Two key ideas have emerged out of scientific thinking that support the view of ourselves as part of the earth. The first idea comes from Systems Theory and the second idea is called The Gaia Hypothesis.
Systems Theory sees our world in terms of ‘systems’, where each system is a ‘whole’ that is more than the sum of its parts, but also itself a ‘part’ of larger systems. For examplae, a cell is more than just a pile of molecules and itself is a part of larger systems eg. an organ. An organ is on one level a whole in itself, but on another, it is a part of a system at the level of an individual person. A family and a community can both be seen as ‘systems’ where the ‘parts’ are people.
The Gaia Hypothesis takes this idea further and applies it to the whole planet. All of life on earth can be seen as whole that is more than the sum of its parts, this whole being like a huge super-lifeform that we call ‘Gaia’ (after the name for the ancient Greek goddess of the earth). Living systems have a tendency to keep themselves in balance but also to adapt and evolve over time. Scientists have found that the earth also has these tendencies, with feedback mechanisms to ‘keep in balance’ the temperature and oxygen levels of the atmosphere, just as our bodies maintain the temperature and oxygen levels in our arteries.
The Gaia Hypothesis is stating that the earth is alive and that we are part of it. This is something that many cultures have known for centuries.
Facing the scale of social and ecological crisis in our world can leave us feeling numbed, overwhelmed and powerless. Yet there is often little place for such feelings in conventional politics or in our society at large. The dominant response is to deny or distract ourselves from any uncomfortable feelings about the state of the world, and to carry on with ‘business as usual’.
If we see ourselves as part of the world, it becomes possible to see that such uncomfortable feelings may serve a valuable function. Just as it hurts when we put our finger over a flame, ‘pain for the world’ alerts us to the injuries of our world and can move us to respond. Allowing ourselves to feel for our world also opens us to a source of energy and aliveness, and a strength that comes from connection to something more than just our narrow selves.
Spirituality is to do with our inner sense of connection with something larger than ourselves and with our relationship with what we see as sacred. This can give our lives a sense of meaning and purpose beyond material success and those special moments where we feel that connection more deeply can provide an important source of strength in difficult times.
If we see ourselves as part of the ‘Tree of Life’ – the interconnected web of beings we call Gaia, then a Deep Ecological approach to spirituality might emphasizeour relationship with this larger whole. We may look at life itself as being sacred, and see the possibility of the larger force of life acting through us in our work for earth recovery. This ‘life-centered spirituality’ can be an important source of inspiration to face and respond to the problems of our world.
It is waiting for you..


Philippines: First Baguio Environmental Summit Declaration – Reclaim Our Rights To Land, Resources And Ecological Sustainability

Philippines: First Baguio Environmental Summit Declaration – Reclaim Our Rights To Land, Resources And Ecological Sustainability


“Protecting the rights of the poor should take precedence over corporate greed. Genuine development must prioritize the need to ensure ecological sustainability over market profitability. We must never sacrifice people and the environment for short-term benefit of the few.” – Fr. Edwin Gariguez, a Catholic priest who led a group of indigenous community leaders in 2009 in an 11-day hunger strike to protest large-scale mining in Mindoro, and recipient of the 2012 Goldman Environmental Prize.


These words resonate as we, participants of the First Baguio Environmental Summit, unite and resolve to continue our struggle to reclaim our rights to land, resources and a sustainable environment in the City of Baguio.


We are alarmed that Baguio’s environment is now in deep crisis, reaching such state of environmental degradation, that we experience daily its stark impacts. We suffer the evidences of urban blight such as the garbage problem, the lack of water, dying rivers, the poor air quality, traffic and congestion, the increase in natural disasters, food insecurity, unemployment, homelessness, shrinking forest areas and watershed, and biodiversity loss. These phenomena are clear signs that we may be crossing critical boundaries and approaching dangerous tipping points in the state of the city’s, if not the planet’s, environment.


We are concerned that the limited land and resources of Baguio City, originally indigenous peoples ancestral territory and designed as a colonial hill station to serve a population of 25,000, are not stretched beyond its limits. The carrying capacity of the city has already been exceeded. We believe that the development of Baguio City’s land and resources should be managed and planned in a rationale, cohesive and holistic manner to take into consideration the welfare of the people, of future generations and the sustainability of the environment.


We are aghast at the wanton disregard by government officials of the people’s sentiment in giving priority to profit-generating development for a few elite corporation over the needs and welfare of the majority of the people. We hold the public authorities accountable for their failure to stop this reckless violation of the rights of the Baguio people to land, resources and a healthy environment.


We condemn the manipulation of land tenurial instruments in the city to give favor to the rich and powerful over the rightful ownership claims and access rights of indigenous peoples, actual occupants, settlers and other bona fide residents of the city.


In our desire for a Baguio City that is progressive, sustainable and responsive to the needs and sentiments of its people; in our deep respect for Mother Nature, its ecological balance and integrity of creation; and after thorough and all-rounded discussions and deliberation while keeping the common good of the people of Baguio in mind;


We now forward recommendations, with the expectation that these serve as a guide for our policy-makers, decision-makers and urban planners, as well as our own respective organizations in defining the future development plans of Baguio City.


On Land Use


1. Ensure that the Comprehensive Land Use Plan of Baguio strikes the proper balance between economic development and environmental protection. Ensure that the remaining forest cover, watershed areas and parks of the city are protected, conserved and further developed, while regulating the need for residential, institutional and commercial zones. Conduct wider consultations with the people and communities affected in the formulation of laws, policies, projects and programs on land use.


2. Conduct comprehensive study and enact appropriate legislation to reconcile conflicting land surveys, land use, titles, townsite sales application and other tenurial instruments of land disposition in the city. Implement the fast-track programs and recognize indigenous peoples land rights while addressing perennial problem of squatting through mass housing and recognition of rights of actual occupants. Initiate dialogues between the Ibaloi land claimants and settlers in ancestral lands towards resolving issues of ownership and acquisition. Declare a moratorium on demolitions.


3. Investigate illegal and anomalous land transaction, land grabbing, graft and corruption practices in the disposition of land in the city. Punish those accountable for these crimes and initiate measure of redress to correct the injustices committed against rightful landowners and occupants. Uphold the Ibaloi people’ struggle for justice over the dispossession of their ancestral lands.


4. Conduct widespread public consultation in Baguio to surface the true sentiments of the people before any further action is taken by Congress to approve the proposed Baguio City Charter.


5. Conduct geo-hazard mapping to determine dangerous land areas in Baguio as a basis for disaster risk reduction and preparedness, while ensuring that this is not mis-used to justify relocation and/or demolition of informal settlers and rightful owners.


On Garbage and Waste Management


1. Conduct a comprehensive study and hold public consultation and multi-sectoral dialogues towards arriving at a sustainable solution to the garbage problem of the city. Close down, clean up and rehabilitate the Irisan dumpsite to make it safe for community residents and surrounding barangays.


2. Intensify programs to reduce, reuse and recycle waste in the city. Encourage and support viable household-level and community-level initiatives, as well as indigenous and innovative practices of waste management as an integral part of the comprehensive program of waste management of the city, including the use of vermiculture, the eco-compost receptacle and residual waste terrace.


3. Promote alternative material such as bayong, paper bags, and other alternative to plastics and Styrofoam in the city of Baguio, and assert political will for the implementation of the law on the use of plastics.


4. Hold the government accountable for the millions of pesos budget allocated for waste management and information, education campaign. Ensure multisectoral collaboration in waste management and form a working group to study the budget, where is it going to ensure that it is used for its real purpose of waste management.


5. Conduct community grassroots organizing for waste management at the source.


On Management of Land, Water and Natural Resources:


1. Give recognition to the importance of trees in the development of Baguio and their indispensible role in maintaining the environment, land, air and water resources of Baguio City, as well as in mitigating carbon emission, global warming and climate change.


2. Ensure that development plans of Baguio City promote equitable access, use, management and benefit-sharing of the city’s natural resources and address the identified priority needs of the city’s populace. Guard against to monopolize resources for profit by a few private and foreign corporation and the powerful elite. Conduct a grassroots-based campaign for sustainable pro-people development by starting in our own little ways.


3. Revoke the permit given to SM Prime Holdings for its expansion project. Stop the cutting and earthballing of trees in Luneta Hill and rehabilitate the forest to return it to its original condition. Investigate the status and legality of SM Prime Holding’s land ownership over Luneta Hill and surrounding areas. Promote good governance and hold the concerned City officials, the DENR and other government officials and agencies accountable for their decisions and wrongdoings.


4. Conduct public consultations as a standard operating procedure and ensure that the free prior and informed consent of affected communities is obtained before any development program or project is implemented in the city. Declare moratorium on large-scale development in the city.


5. Promote clean and green development, environmental education programs in the schools and communities, indigenous knowledge and practices in natural resource management, and grassroots involvement in environmental management. Promote sustainable urban agriculture.


6. Revive and strengthen the consumerism movement in Baguio City for people to become responsible for the things they buy and use and for each of us to took into our lifestyles and responsibility in the use of our resources.


7. Ensure equitable allocation and distribution of water resources and take measures to protect the water quality in the city of Baguio.


Consider urban planning in a wider-scale such as the Baguio-La Trinidad-Itogon-Sablan-Tuba (BLISTT) framework for development, as a way to ease the increasing pressure on the carrying capacity of Baguio, while giving a proper place to pro-people development, environmental sustainability and indigenous heritage values of the people of Baguio and the adjacent municipalities.


These recommendations come with the guidance of the words of Macliing Dulag, the Kalinga leader who was killed on April 24, 1980 for his militant opposition to the construction of the Chico Dams. He said: “What is the most precious thing to man? Life! If life is threatened, what ought a man do? Fight! This he must do, otherwise he is dishonored. That will be worse than death. If we do not fight and the dams push through, we die anyway. If we fight, we die honorably. Thus I exhort you all then “KAYAW!) (Struggle!)”


Done in observance of Earth Day (April 22) and Cordillera Day (April 24), on this 22nd day of April 2012 in UP Baguio, Baguio City.

The Lies By SM about their Garden in the Sky By Michael A. Bengwayan

The Lies by SM about their Garden in the Sky

By Michael A. Bengwayan

For the past days, some articles have been written obviously by people who are on the side of SM but ignorant about trees and can’t even tell the difference of what a live tree is from a dead one. Some disinformation have also been written about me and our head legal officer Atty. Cheryl Chyt L. Daytec Daytec. SM is desperate as it has lost so much goodwill as well as income and it will do everything–even to maximize lies and distort truths –just to get into your pockets. But the people of Baguio are wiser than all of SM. They see through the facade of SM’s pride parade, arrogance and greed.

Allow me to let you see through the lies of SM’s so-called Green Expansion Garden in the Sky project. They say that their project is “certified by LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), the internationally recognized standard for green building design and construction developed by the US Green Building Council.”

However, Jennivine Kwan, Vice President for International Operations of USGBC denied this claim. She said they have never certified any project of SM and do not intend to work with SM.

LEEDS Philippines also said SM’s trumpeting of its so called Green Project is a case of Greenwashing, (Disinformation disseminated by an organization so as to present an environmentally responsible public image) and called on people to sign the petition against SM.

And rightly so. Why? Because building a garden in the sky is only an artificial thing. There is no substitute to God-made woods, forest or natural gardens. An artificial Garden in the Sky has all the following disadvantages.

First, when you put soil on top of a building and plant trees on it, you are negating the carbon sequestration capability of the trees. The carbon absorbed by the trees accumulate in the few feet of soil on top of the concrete roof and since the trees are not naturally connected to the earth, the amassed carbon dioxide volatilizes back to the atmosphere through the surface soil as there is no deeper ground for the COs to leach. Thus, instead carbon dioxide being trapped, it is released continually to the atmosphere causing harm and danger.

Second, the natural capillary action of tree roots to raise water level to as high as 200 feet deep is totally removed because they are not in contact to the earth. With this, there will be more difficulty in water access.

Third, oxygen release by trees is lessened because a disequilibrium in CO2-O2 exchange. More CO2 are released while the trees, which can never reach their growth potential in terms of height, density and sprawl, will have limited capability to create and to release oxygen.

The problem is, SM wants to invent better what God has made. That is bullshit. There is no substitute to what God has made. Not even science can replace that.

Is this so hard to understand?