School kids back mayor on tree park preservation

BAGUIO CITY – Pupils of the Baguio Pines Family Learning Center stirred up déjà vu when they trooped to City Hall on Monday to convey their support to Mayor Mauricio Domogan's bid to preserve the mini-pine tree forest within the Baguio Convention Center reservation.

Nineteen students representing the pre-school to Grade VI classes submitted to the mayor a total of 68 letters and illustrations they and their schoolmates made addressed to President Rodrigo Duterte containing their plea for the tree park.

Each letter asked the President's intercession to prevent the sale for commercial purposes of the 33,606 square meter property of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS).

A main petition signed by the school's administration, faculty, staff and students asked the President to convince the GSIS to sell the property to the city of Baguio instead to maintain it as a forest.

The scene was reminiscent of the gesture done by students of the same school in 2002 when they wrote then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to voice our their objection to Shoemart (SM) Development Corporation's plan to build a condotel and commercial complex in the area.

School principal Leonila Bayla who along with 13 teachers accompanied the pupils to the mayor's office said their students were well-aware of the impact of losing the green patch which is one of the few remaining pinestands in the city.

"We are very hopeful that that we can get the support of President Digong since he is very particularly about environmental preservation," Bayla said.

"We don't have enough pine trees left and we want to protect what we have left to counter pollution and the effects of climate change."

Mayor Domogan who promised to send the letters to the President said the appeal of the schoolchildren boosted the city's bid to purchase the property to maintain it as a mini-forest.

"I hope that these letters will deliver the message of the people of Baguio to the GSIS that we are so concerned with preserving the said area with the end in view of convincing the GSIS administration to change its mind and agree to sell it to the city," he said.

The city offered to purchase the tree park on two occasions but the GSIS increased the asking price in as many times.

When the city attempted another tender, the GSIS said it was no longer interested to sell.

"(I) ask for your help about the preservation and protection of the forest beside the Baguio Convention Center... in order for them not to make a building because there will no area anymore that will give us fresh air and when it will rain it might lead to landslide," Grade V pupil Liezel Sarah Sebastian wrote.

"Help us stop the GSIS from selling our remaining forest because we don't want any more trees to be cut down again and also because we want to preserve (it) for the next generation and if the trees would be cut down the nature would be destroyed again and the beauty of Baguio City would be destroyed as well," Kate Ashlee Todyog, Grade VI penned.

"I trust you Mr. President to let GSIS sell the said area to our city government instead of (a private company). Please entrust that small area to us – let us have it and we will surely save and take care of it," Genesis Yvan Tudlong pleaded. – Aileen P. Refuerzo

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