Long before I came to recite the poem “Trees” immortalized by the poet, Joyce Kilmer, I already had an endearing attachment with trees even as a toddler. Being from a family wallowing in poverty, so to speak, the trees that abound in the communal forests where we lived were the wealth and the joy that adorned my childhood.
Many years later in Loakan, I would have not hurdled the grueling four (4) year physical and academic grind in the Academy without the soothing smell of pine trees breezing through our open windows every study period in the evening, refurbishing my otherwise exhausted mind and body sapped by every day’s classroom and training routines.
That’s how I came to love and value the Benguet pine trees which, together with the invigorating climate of the city made me decide to spend my remaining years with my family in Baguio. Thus, every reported mass destruction done to our pine trees is shocking to me and makes me curse the perpetrators in silent anger, to say the least.
That’s how I felt when Congressman Nicasio Aliping has caused the unabashed cutting and uprooting of the more than 700 precious Benguet pine and Alnus trees in Cabuyao, Sto. Tomas, Tuba, Benguet which to my estimate will take several years of hard toil by those who value the environment, to replenish.
Why, how did this happen? All the while, I thought Congressman Aliping when he was a Councilor made a promise to the people of Tuba and Baguio not to cut trees if and when he would develop his alleged property in Cabuyao. Moreover, the Congressman also made a commitment during his campaign in 2013 that he would be an advocate for the protection of nature and environment. What happened to this promise? None, on the contrary, he did the opposite.
No wonder, the Ombudsman indicted Congressman Aliping and 3 contractors who conducted earthmoving activities within and around the property allegedly owned by Aliping resulting not only in the downing of 741 precious Benguet pine and alnus trees, but also in the turbidity of water supply owing to the contamination of three springs which are sources of water for Baguio City and Tuba.
The truth however is that the property claimed by Aliping as his cannot possibly belong to him because being a declared forest reserve since 1940, the forest cannot be converted for private use and ownership.
Further, his claim that he could do whatever he wants to the trees because the property on which they are found is his is farfetched for, even in a titled property, the owner under the law cannot just cut or destroy even a rotten tree without obtaining a permit or license from the DENR.
The economic costs of Congressman Aliping’s dastard destruction of one of the remaining water shed for Baguio City and Tuba is staggering. Just seeing the damage done to the forest, it is as if we lost our very soul as a people of the city that we love
Now tell me if you are still willing to give another chance to the perpetrators of these felled pine trees this May election. Not me, I have to drop the otherwise good name of the Congressman, as I knew him before.