Malls or trees?


The SM Development Corp (SMDC) is set to cut 43 fully grown Alnus japonica trees while also intending to uproot 97 growing pine trees (Pinus kesiya) and 42 saplings virtually sentencing to death a total of 182 trees within the Luneta Hill area where SMDC is found to pave way for another parking lot.

This is is totally unacceptable, and callously insensitive to the importance of trees to the environment and ecology. We protest vehemently this intended act.

It appears that on Oct. 27, 2011, the Department of Environment and Natural resources (DENR granted a cutting, balling and pruning permit to SMDC upon the instruction of a clearance signed by DENR Sec. Ramon Paje on Oct., 2011.

This shows that DENR does not fully appreciate and understand the contributions of these trees which have already grown up in view of the global warming and environmental threats.

By issuing a tree cutting permit, DENR allows itself to be questioned publicly of its worthiness as well as its role as defender of the environment and natural resources. By ruling in favor of tree cutting by a business entity, it is fast losing public support to an already tarnished image.

DENR also shows preferential treatment for business establishments against original inhabitants, locals and residents who have long cared for the environment. Economy at the expense of the environment is greed.

We finds this utterly senseless and call on the immediate stoppage for these trees from being harmed or killed. Please sign now! Let us all work to stop such stupid acts where our environment is sacrificed for financial gain by a few profiteers. Let us stop these tree cutters. Let us save what is left of our beloved Baguio. If our political leaders and agency public servants do not do what is mandated of them, let us show what a citizens' initiative can do. We can do this.

SM Baguio expansion sparks uproar

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.

Court orders SM Baguio to stop uprooting trees 

A local court in Baguio City released today a 72-hour temporary environmental protection order (TEPO) stopping the management of SM Investments Corporation (SMIC) from uprooting almost 200 trees as part of the SM Baguio mall development program.

According to a Rappler report, Judge Cleto Villacorta of the Baguio Regional Trial Court Branch 6 decided in favor of the National Union of People's Lawyers (NUPL) which filed an urgent motion earlier today requesting for the issuance of a TEPO.

The NUPL petition was filed immediately after the mall management on Monday night started to uproot the trees in the controversial Luneta Hills property.

The property, which was acquired by SMIC from the national government, will be developed into a 7-storey parking and entertainment plaza. The plan drew flak from Baguio City residents because the project will require the uprooting and transfer of 182 trees in the area.

In a statement, SMIC assured those against the development plans that the uprooted trees will be replanted.

“SM reiterates its concern for the environment and that the building expansion shall be sustaining the environment, not only the trees, but the other environment aspects such as air quality and energy efficiency,” the statement said, noting that they will also plant 50,000 new trees to support Baguio's “re-regreening” program.

In its complaint, however, the NUPL said that “the damage that the people of Baguio will suffer will be irreparable as the trees cannot be revived or resurrected back to life once cut or balled.”

Experts interviewed by the Rappler likewise said that the plan to transplant the trees is bound to fail and will be harmful for the Baguio City residents in the long run.

Director of the Cordillera Ecological Cordi Eco-Center Pine Tree Dr. Michael Bengwayan said that the uprooted trees may suffer from transplant shock and eventually die.

“When a tree is dug for transplanting, more than 95% of the absorbing roots are severed. With less than 5% of its root system remaining, the newly transplanted tree suffers from water stress,” he said.

Midnight murder”
The unannounced uprooting of the trees in property last night sparked outrage among Baguio City residents who turned to social media to protest SMIC's latest decision.
In the Facebook page Boycott SM Everyone, a number of users expressed their displeasure over the planned uprooting of trees.

User Van Dicang posted: “I pledge not to support whoever sided SM on their expansion plans in the next elections... I pledge to campaign against them in my barangay...I pledge to make sure that they get ZERO votes here... and I pledge to support the boycott against the Greed Corporation.”

Meanwhile, ABS-CBN News quoted the Facebook status of Baguio resident and “Save 182” convener Karlo Marko Altomonte who said: “Just came back from Luneta Hill. For months, SM City Baguio insisted that what they're doing is right, that it's for the good of the city... then why are they doing this behind walls erected overnight, they even also blocked the view from inside the mall, and in the middle of the night?!?”

Rappler also quoted Twitter user JP Alipio who said that dozens of concerned citizens marched to Luneta Hills to monitor what they called the “midnight murder of trees.”



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