SM Baguio expansion sparks uproar

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 14 2012 06:57 PM | Updated as of Jan 16 2012 12:14 AM

BAGUIO, Philippines (UPDATE) – Several environmental groups were alarmed by SM City Baguio's plan to cut and transfer 182 alnus and pine trees for its 7-storey parking building.

More than 3,000 signed the online petition against SM City Baguio.

This will be submitted to the office of President Benigno Aquino III and Secretary for Environmental Protection Neric Acosta.

Part of the protest is to boycott SM mall in the Philippines.

A rally will be conducted on January 20 at 2 p.m.

'Green' parking

SM, meanwhile, insists that the 7-storey parking building will be environment-friendly with its green architecture.

It has a sky garden at the rooftop, underground water reservoir to catch rainfall and sewerage treatment system to recycle used water.

Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon Paje and Baguio City Mayor Mauricio Domogan had already granted permission to SM City Baguio to cut 182 trees.

On October 27, 2011, DENR-Cordillera issued a cutting and balling permit to SM.

On Thursday, Baguio City's building and architecture's office issued a building permit allowing SM to start the construction.

Baguio heritage

Acosta told ANC on Saturday that he wants to meet with all the parties involved in the tree-cutting operation to revisit the plan.

Acosta said the issue reflects largely on the city’s heritage of being the “summer capital of the Philippines.”

“All parties [must] revisit this entire situation because in many respects this points not just to the trees but Baguio’s heritage,” he said.

“I’d like a sit-down with the city government, the DENR regional office in Cordillera and SM,” he added.

Acosta said he was alarmed at the amount of feedback his office received regarding the tree-cutting and balling.

“As Environment Protection Secretary, it alarms me at the very least and I’d like to listen to the voices of the people of Baguio because it is their city,” he said.

The secretary also said that President Aquino’s Executive Order (EO) No. 23 should be brought up in the meeting.

The EO restricts DENR from issuing logging permits and contracts in all natural and residual forests nationwide. -- Reports from Maira Wallis, ABS-CBN News Northern Luzon; ANC