Mayor Paulino held in Olongapo, against tree cutting

Olongapo — After heritage trees were cut down to make way for a development project of SM in this city, residents and officials who care about the environment have begun staging protests against it.

On Friday, Olongapo Councilor Edic Piano was joined by residents of Olongapo who stood in front of SM City Olongapo holding up placards decrying the cutting down of heritage trees at Marikit park and the impending demolition of structures at the adjacent complex there.

Piano, who is one of the leading voices against the tree cutting of seven acacia trees and a mahogany tree which were also supposedly earthballed last December 11 by the administration of Olongapo Mayor Rolen Paulino, led the protest action.

” Like a thief in the night, the Paulino administration cut down those heritage trees with no regard for the impact to the environment, or any sense of history. Mayor Paulino entered into an agreement with SM that is highly disadvantageous to the city, and he is wasting no time to implement this project despite all the opposition against it. ” Piano said.

Councilor Edic Piano, who inspected the site the day after word came that Paulino had begun taking the trees down at night, said that Mayor Paulino ” wasted no time in cutting these trees down. They worked on this at night,

Piano said that ” we are not against the SM project per se, but they should just have looked for an alternative site, since the Marikit park area is public property. It’s the only open space left in Olongapo, and the contract with SM is not even advantageous to the city government. ”

He added that in the hurry of the Paulino administration to cater to the needs of SM, they were even willing to ” not go through the regular process, for instance, the illegal fencing here. They put fences around this area, blocked the a public road, and the permittee did not even show up when we asked for his presence for questioning. ”

Meanwhile, former Olongapo City administrator Ferdinand Magrata said that terms of the contract with SM need to be revisited since ”it would cost more to buy a shampoo sachet everyday, than to pay for the per square meter rentals. And this contract will last for 50 years. ”

He said that SM is only required to pay, according to the lease contract, a fixed annual lease rate equivalent to 360 per square meter per annum—or nearly less than 1 peso per square meter a day.

” They are going to put up a huge development there, and earn millions and millions, and will only pay less than one pesos per square meter a day. ” Magrata said.

Magrata added that ” there are so many things that I can see that’s wrong with Paulino’s agreement with SM and his official conduct regarding the project. We have to be watchful so that the interests of the people of Olongapo are protected. “