Students, Residents Stand Against Commercial Giant to Save Tree Park

More than 1,000 faculty staff and students walked out of classrooms to protest the possible demolition of a tree park in Baguio City. The park would be demolished because SM Investment Corporation (SMIC) plans to construct 13-storey posh condominiums in the area.

Northern Dispatch
Posted by
Volume VIII, Number 31, September 7-13, 2008

BAGUIO CITY (246 kms. North of Manila) – Despite the heavy downpour, faculty members and students of the University of the Philippines Baguio (UPB), together with other sectors, marched towards the SM City Baguio, Sept. 3. They condemned the proposed demolition of a tree park to pave the way for the construction of SM condominiums.

The tree park is a part of the Baguio Convention Center (BCC) complex. It is reportedly owned by the Government Social Insurance System (GSIS).

UPB Professor Evangelyn Ram quoted recent news reports that the SMIC plans to build two to four posh condominiums as high as 13 floors and projects to cut down around one third of the present number of trees in the park.

More than 1,000 faculty, staff and students walked out of their classrooms and held a barricade along the Baguio Convention Center. A short program headed by the UPB community was held. The protest culminated in a march to SM through the Session Road entrance.

Baguio Bishop Carlito Cenzon who also is an officer of the Baguio Regreening Movement supported the protest against the SM project, which he referred to as “a commercial giant.” Cenzon said any private sector could cut down trees in the said tree park as long as the GSIS permits.

The Baguio Centennial Commission appointed Cenzon as the Chairman of the Committee on Parks.

The police, however, stopped the protesters before they could reach the mall compound. The group was met by policemen stationed in an outpost near SM. UPB Chancellor Priscilla Supnet-Macansantos negotiated with the police. They ended the protest at the mall’s entrance.

“They do not have any authorization to enter SM,” a police officer said. The police closed the road from Session Road to the mall with their mobile cars.

“Are you protecting SM?” one protester asked a police officer.

Ram said the City Council rejected the project but the city mayor encourages the “building of these condominiums in open spaces.”

Baguio City Mayor Reinaldo Bautista, in a media conference Sept. 4, said that the condominiums may be built on the GSIS property at the back of BCC. He said that he supports every effort to preserve the tree park.

Members of the Soroptimist International, a women’s group, also supported the maintenance of the tree park and claimed that the GSIS gave the seal of approval for the condominium projects.

The group claims it has a copy of a memorandum of agreement between a certain Engineer Boni dela Peòa and SMIC, allowing the former to do diamond drilling in the area.

Macansantos asked the UP students and faculty staff to boycott SM as a sign of protest.

“I am very proud of the courage UP has shown,” said Macansantos addressing the crowd at the UPB parking lot after the mobilization.

Silverio Saligbon, UPB Student Council chairperson, said the project is geared towards the ‘commercialization of the tree park and caters to the interests of foreign and local business personalities without considering the common good of the masses and the environment.’ Northern Dispatch/(

Share This Post