For: Indigenous Peoples, Issues and Resourceso
Indigenous Peoples to Lead 160 Kilometer Walk to Protest Killing of Tree By Giant SM Mall
By Michael A. Bengwayan
Baguio City, Philippines — Some 80 people, led by this writer who comes from the Bontoc indigenous tribe, will lead almost a hundred people in a 160 kilometer walk from Sagada, Mountain province to Baguio City.
The walk dubbed as Challenge 160 (https://www.facebook.com/events/499700250082171/?fref=ts) is in continuing protest against the killing of pine trees, some aged more than a hundred years old and alnus trees, at the Luneta Hill of Baguio City by the giant Chinese-owned SM mall. Already, 49 trees have been destroyed by SM through wrong earth-balling, despite a temporary restraining order from a local court. Some 133 trees are facing the same fate.
The tree-killing has sparked a year long protest and rallies led by this writer since January 8, 2012 . Then, I wrote a petition calling for Pres. Benigno Aquino 111 to stop the killing of the trees. The petition has so far netted almost 8,000 signatures on-line and some 40,000 plus on the streets (http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/245201/news/regions/thousands-join-rally-against-sm-baguio).
SM is hell-bent on cutting the trees to put up a seven storey car-park.
Some local officials, favored the cutting of the trees against the sentiments of thousands of residents including the Roman Catholic Church in the region led by Bishop Carlito Cenzon.
Consumers have been boycotting the mall to further advance their cause and were able to convince Sting not to hold his concert in the Philippines in one of the malls owned by SM last December.
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. 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.
Baguio City is a major tourists spot in the country and is famed as the “City of Pines” because of its pine trees. Without the pine trees that help provide cool climate and beauty to the Central Business District, the city would not by favored as much as it would, tourists clamor.
The Challenge 160 Walk will take six days, a non-stop hike which will bring the hikers to as high as mountains with elevations more than 2,000 meters above sea level.
The indigenous Igorot peoples here treasure trees and forests and Sagada was chosen because it is a place where people love their trees and forests and the forests takes care of the people. Sagada is a known tourist haven because of its forests which are being managed sustainably through an indigenous agroforestry practice called “lakon”.