BAGUIO CITY, PINE Trees May Be Next DENR REHABILITATION Target

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“Rehabilitation” has been a significant ecological watchword in the Philippines these days, as the government flexed its political muscles in spurring communities, with the help of volunteer organizations, to begin cleanup efforts of the country’s environment, particularly in tourist destinations and major cities. Nobody can forget the titanic rehab operation for Boracay last year that lasted several months and shut down business there for the duration. The recent undertaking for Manila Bay is just as impressive in itself. Now, officials of the pertinent government agencies have decided on their next major location to clean up: the country’s mountaintop summer capital.

CNN Philippines reports that the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources is taking steps to begin a large-scale rehabilitation measure for Baguio City. This Sunday, February 17, DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu announced that he has deployed a team of environmentalists to commence a study of Baguio’s natural ecosystem, in particular its famous surrounding forest of pine trees. Cimatu expressed concern over a trend that the city’s pine tree population has steadily begun to decline in recent times. “Because Baguio is pine trees and pine trees are Baguio,” he explained. “Before, people have said when you climb Baguio it smells of pine trees, now that is no longer the case because they have fewer leaves.”

Undersecretary Benny Antiporda adds that the DENR fact-finding team will perform a count of pine trees in the vicinity of Baguio to ascertain any rate of decrease in their density, and to determine the necessity and degree of replanting needed. “That is the main objective,” he said. “We will also look into the possibility of a natural cause to why the pine trees are dying. We will study that too.” This was in response to the alarm raised by agriculturists in the Baguio area who have noticed a dying-off of pine trees two years ago.

While the ongoing Manila Bay rehabilitation may not have implemented any serious restrictions beyond trying to keep people from swimming in the waters, many Filipinos still remember the near-complete shutdown performed on Boracay island for six months in 2017, and are concerned if the famously cool summer destination would be closed as well, U-Sec Antiporda made assurances that it may not be necessary in Baguio.

Secretary Cimatu made proposals in the vein of increased restriction on building construction around Baguio’s sloping ground, where the pine tree growths are normally concentrated, as well as suspending some ongoing building permits. Such measures have been met with approval by the Baguio City government.

Image courtesy of Manila Bulletin

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