>> Sunday, July 8, 2007

That ‘artful’ cement pine tree and traffic
Alfred. P. Dizon

Mayor Peter Rey Bautista better think twice before issuing a permit to demolish that concrete “pine tree” atop Session Road, considered a work of art by henchmen of a bygone era at City Hall. He could be sued by a comedian for destruction of public property. The fake tree was then constructed to the tune of around P2 million which was widely criticized by local folks particularly the media.

There was a similar case wherein the mayor and councilors of far Tinoc town in Ifugao recently lost a case for allegedly demolishing a public market funded from government funds through the then Cordillera Executive Board.

If I remember right, the mayor and his subalterns were charged for destroying the market since they were not consulted on the project. Now I hear Tinoc folk have a market unlike when we visited the area in the early 90s which resulted to a love affair among two peers in the media but that is another story.
In the case of the rusty, giant tree in Baguio , the countdown has started for its demolition as a comprehensive traffic management plan calls for its removal. The youthful mayor said he will not have second thoughts of issuing a permit to demolish the structure if removing it would solve the traffic problem on the main thoroughfare of this mountain resort city.

The plan is laudable, but then, one of the city’s jesters may make him pay for wrecking it by filing a court case. This is far-fetched but then, I don’t know of any city hall magician who could make the tree disappear with a wand in the flick of a second to solve the problem.

City police director Moises Guevarra earlier suggested removal or relocation of the concrete tree to ease traffic in the area which is most often a bottleneck. The site is a five-way traffic chokepoint and the concrete tree occupies a big space on the loop.

It is good Bautista had the wisdom to pause before implementing the demolition. He said the plan will have to wait unless a comprehensive traffic management scheme is formulated to ease the worsening traffic problem and air pollution in the city’s central business district. Our peers who are waiting for a dramatic photo op and a controversial story have to wait.
Bautista had invited traffic management experts of the University of the Philippines to help the city draft a comprehensive traffic plan. He hinted of a rerouting scheme at the rotunda for better traffic flow and relocation of the entry point of SM at Leonila Hill. Imagine the consternation of business mogul Henry Sy if this would be implemented.

It had been more than 10 years ago since the cement tree was funded by the pork barrel of then City Rep. Bernardo Vergara who denied it was his design. Environmentalists and artists have criticized the “tree,” noting its signboard which stated in bold letters: “Plant me and protect me.” Irony in the highest degree.

The pundits said it was crazy to plant and protect a stone tree saying had a live tree been planted, it would now be a towering tree. The sorry state of the once green concrete pine tree is noticeable. It is black now due to smoke belched by vehicles.

The city government could donate the cement tree to me if disposing it is their problem. I could plant it atop the house in the capital town of La Trinidad in Benguet and make it a tourist spot and earn money in the process. But then, I wouldn’t want the rickety old house crumbling down since it is made of wood. Besides I wouldn’t want another comedian after my neck for getting P2 million worth of dried cement out of government funds. Let our newly elected officials decide what to do with that piece of “art.”
I had a spirited discussion with March Fianza at Chongloy’s Luisas Restaurant along Session on the issue. The spirits got my adrenalin up. I was insisting with or without the cement tree, the ordinance banning parking of vehicles along Session Road from 6-9 a.m. and 4-7 p.m. should be studied, amended or repealed.

I was saying whether the roadside is closed to parking or not, the flow of traffic is the same since vehicles can pass through the two-lane road going up or down. March was saying one reason why the ban on parking at certain hours was that Session Road had turned into one huge car display site for selling vehicles.

Indeed, there are vehicle owners until now who post their “For Sale” signs on their cars and park these the whole day on the area but remove these when the cops come around. The idea in the past, March said, was to limit these vehicles in the area as these were parked for days until these are sold.

He said another reason was establishments located along the road could park with blinkers on while they unload their goods. The administrative order, he said, was the result of a series of public hearings.
Okay, I said. How could one go against the wishes of many? But this time, the order could be studied to suit the times. It is good Mayor Bautista is initiating the creation of a comprehensive traffic scheme for the city – unless some bright boy would propose to relocate the cement tree at city hall.

As a tourist spot, the tree could create mayhem as a lot of visitors may visit city hall for a glimpse of it creating vehicular bottlenecks. Maybe better to relocate it to La Trinidad where tourists are needed to perk up its revenue.

It could be used as teeing post by the caballeros for their horses at the wide vacant lot of the Benguet State University at Km 6. Maybe, the local government could spruce it up with lights at night to lure love birds under its branches instead of them creating babies elsewhere contributing to population explosion.

But then again, it could create traffic problems. You see, I pass through the Halsema Road in La Trinidad everyday to Baguio and I wouldn’t want to be caught in a rut and in a state of perpetual agitation. Call it vested interest. At least I’m open about it. I also have to protect my health from getting high blood due to rude and stupid drivers. Not good for the heart.


The Nashman July 12, 2007 at 3:09 AM  

I'm willing to volunteer my time to take down that ugly concrete tree

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