Ayala Land says Baguio developers can build around pine trees
BAGUIO CITY—Real estate giant Ayala Land Inc. (ALI) has offered its Baguio Technohub project in Camp John Hay as proof that developers can build in the summer capital without harming its trees.
Javier Hernandez, ALI assistant vice president for commercial business groups, on Monday said they have distributed five building projects and smaller retail cabins around their 12-hectare leased section in Camp John Hay to spare pine trees.
“We did not cut trees. We don’t need to cut trees. It can be done,” Hernandez says, after ALI learned about the city’s problem about a development project that would have to displace more than 100 trees, including the Benguet pine.
The Technohub is composed of five business process outsourcing (BPO) buildings that make up an information technology zone and a cluster of retail outlets.
Hernandez says the first BPO building is lower than the tallest pine tree in the area, which is about four-story high. This has been occupied by Convergys.
A second BPO building is rising across the Convergys facility. The flat area behind this building has been reserved for a third BPO building. The two other BPO buildings would rise on flat land that used to serve as a camping site for scouts in the 70s and 80s.
“These areas have no trees,” Hernandez says.
He adds the structures housing the retail outlets are no higher than two story high buildings because they were designed to rise between the trees.
As soon as ALI pursued the Technohub project, it was handed a blueprint that required low-impact facilities to rise on the leased area, he says.
Hernandez was referring to a 1996 master development plan that heeds 19 conditions set by the Baguio government.
He says following this prescription to the letter meant ALI needed to spread out its facilities which would cost more because of the wider housekeeping service area.
“It was more expensive, but it was the right thing to do,” he says.
“With permission from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, only three trees were relocated and eight trees were trimmed,” ALI says in a statement.
ALI officials say they pursued the Baguio Technohub with a conscious effort “to maintain and cultivate the natural landscape of the city of pines.”
It announced that the company planted 1,000 pine trees in 2009 and another 2,000 trees in 2010.
The city council has been swamped with letters protesting a plan of a shopping mall chain to cut or earthball trees for its expansion.
The John Hay Special Economic Zone was also embroiled in its own tree-cutting issue because of a debt feud between the Fil Estate-owned Camp John Hay Development Corp. (CJHDevco) and the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) that spans 15 years.
CJHDevco had asked an arbitrator to intervene, claiming that BCDA had failed to secure the permits which would have allowed it to proceed with projects on time, including tree cutting permits.
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