Baguio City was discovered by the Americans as a suitable rest and recreation area Baguio City was discovered by the Americans as a suitable rest and recreation area because of its suitable weather condition. The city was a grazing land of the animals of the Ibalois, the original inhabitants of the city, before the introduction of infrastructure projects by its founders that resulted to the sustained growth and development of the city for over a century. Aside from being declared as the country’s Summer Capital because of the city’s cool and romantic weather, Baguio City was also declared a chartered city by the Philippine Commission on September 1, 1909.
Photos taken during the early days of the city show that most parts of the city were grasslands and it was the early inhabitants that planted the trees that continue to sustain its cool weather condition which is natural pull for foreign and domestic visitors to frequent the city and spend a well deserved and relaxing break from the scorching heat of the sun in the lowland areas, especially during the dry months.
Apart from the established forest reservations in the different parts of the city, one of the remaining tree patches in the central business district is the tree park located near the Baguio Convention Center which is owned by the State-run Government Service Insurance System (GSIS). It is part of a huge prime property owned by the state insurance corporation which is being eyed by giant condominium developers as a site for their proposed multi-billion development projects that will contribute to the robust growth of the city.
It can be recalled that there was a developer that reportedly partnered with the GSIS for the joint development of the prime property for a 21-storey condominium structure. However, the local government and various sectors joined forces to oppose the supposed development of the city’s remaining tree park that would have a serious negative impact to the state of the city’s environment and will constrict the breathing space being provided by the trees that are I in the area.
Further, the local government then purchased the Baguio Convention Center and a one hectare portion of the parking area to serve as the city’s premier convention facility to continue attracting more local, regional, national and international groups to conduct their gatherings in the city to help boost the robust growth of the local tourism industry. Lately, the local government attempted to purchase the area of the tree park from the GSIS so that it will be preserved and protected as a tree park wherein the state insurance corporation initially consented to the said deal.
However, for still unknown reasons, the GSIS decided to increase the purchase price of the property from P434 million to P670 million in a span of less than two months that prompted the local government to look into possible ways on how to realize the consummation of the deal that will allow its ownership of the property for it to remain as a protected tree park. Ironically, the GSIS management sent a communication to the local government informing that it is no longer interested to sell the property for whatever reasons which resulted to the dismay of city officials and various sectors wanting that the area be preserved as a tree park purposely for ecological balance.
A number of sectors expressed disappointment over the deteriorating state of the tree park with its fences heavily damaged aside from the area being used as a virtual toilet by undisciplined individuals. Moreover, some of the trees in the park are allegedly infected with a bark infection that could infect other uninfected trees in the place that will result to the eventual loss of the trees in the place if nothing will be done to preserve and protect the trees.
We believe it is high time for both the local government and the various sectors to join forces in sending a clear message to the GSIS management and the national government on the importance of preserving and protecting the property purposely for the city’s improved state of environment. Let us make noise for everyone to be heard like what we had done when we were able to abate the supposed development that was to be introduced in the prime property. While the tree park is a private property, GSIS management should be sensitive to the plight of the people and officialdom of Baguio City on how it will be utilized because the concern for the preservation and protection of the state of the environment outweighs the desire for the introduction of more development projects in the city.
We believe there is much development projects that had been introduced in the different parts of the city that it is now time for us to seriously consider whether to accommodate more infrastructure projects that will affect the state of the city’s environment or allow certain areas to remain as tree parks purposely for breathing spaces.
Let us not allow our tree parks to be compromised for the sake of development. We certainly need development but we also need a decent state of our environment for us to be able to pass on to the future generations the benefit of having a good environment where there is balance between development and nature.