SM stops uprooting of trees in Baguio

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 11 2012 06:53 PM | Updated as of Apr 12 2012 08:55 PM

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) - SM Investments Corp. (SMIC) said on Wednesday it will stop for now the uprooting of trees near its mall in Baguio.

In a statement, SM Supermalls Corp. Vice President Bien Mateo said that “after getting reports that a Temporary Environmental Protection Order (TEPO) was issued by a Baguio Court against the defendants, representatives of SMIC motored to Baguio to get a copy of the TEPO from Baguio City's RTC No.5, at 2:50 p.m. today, April 11, 2012.”

The Sy-led holding firm said it immediately complied with the order.

Some groups rushed to the Luneta Hill early Tuesday after learning that workers have started the expansion project, which includes the “earth-balling” of trees.

Their requests were unheeded, forcing them to throw rocks at a makeshift fence.

They finally got a 72-hour TEPO on the same day. The TEPO seeks to stop SMIC from uprooting some 182 trees in Luneta Hill for the mall expansion.

Nonetheless, the diggings continued, the concerned groups said.

'Save 182 Movement'

In an earlier text message, “Save 182 Movement” convener Karlo Marko Altomonte told ABS-CBNnews.com: “They refused to receive the order from the court and diggings are still ongoing.”

Prior to the issuance of the TEPO, Altomonte said less than ten trees had already been felled.

SMIC drew flak because of the incident.

Residents have also started an online petition seeking to declare the Sys as “personas non gratas of Baguio City” for “disregarding the welfare of the community and the environment all in the name of crass commercialism and heartless capitalism with the expansion plan of SM City Baguio that will result in the potential death of 182 trees on Luneta Hill!”

SM: Earth-balling to stop soil erosion

Annie Garcia, president of SM Supermalls, said on Wednesday that the earth-balling procedure needed for its Baguio mall expansion project is necessary to prevent soil erosion in the area.

Garcia said the soil erosion has been a concern and that it might affect the existing building structure.

“SM is not doing this simply because we want to cut a tree. It is our attempt to find a solution to a soil erosion problem. And for us to reach the cause of the problem, we need to uproot trees to be able to retain the wall structure,” she told dzMM.

Garcia the tree-cutting is needed to address the problem because the trees in the area are not enough.

“Even the presence of those trees are not enough. We needed other solutions,” she said.

The expansion project involves a 7-storey building and underground parking for 1,000 vehicles.

“More than just a retaining wall, siyempre kailangan gumawa nalang tayo ng structure that is stronger and safer. Kung gagawa din lang tayo ng mall, what we can consider is an expansion to the existing mall,” she said.