Thursday, January 22, 2015

SM Baguio To Plant 500,000 Trees In Exchange For The Ones They've Cut For Their Sky Park Project

Amidst a barrage of negative criticisms directed towards SM Baguio's plan to build a Sky Park on Luneta Hill, the mall has recently promised to plant at least half a million trees in the next five years. That's 100,000 seedlings to be planted every year. These will serve as a replacement of sort for the trees that were already cut or earth-balled by the mall to pave way for the expansion project which is expected to cost at least one billion pesos.

Mayor Mauricio Domogan said that SM posted a bond worth 6 million pesos as a guarantee that they will follow environmental laws and cover damages that may arise from the implementation of the project. There are no longer legal impediments stopping the mall in pushing through with their expansion. Last December 12, 2014, the Court of Appeals dismissed the petition filed against the project and lifted the Temporary Environmental Protection Order (TEPO) which was issued against the mall in April 2012.

Mayor Domogan also called on critics of the Sky Project to focus their attention towards making sure that SM complies with DENR rules and that they indeed plant the 500,00 trees they promised to plant in the next five years.

A report in the Manila Standard Today quoted Mayor Domogan saying, "We have no authority to stop SM because it complied with all the requisites of the project. If we will order the stoppage of their project, it will open the floodgates to the filing of administrative and criminal charges against us."
Clumps of trees still remain at the portion of Luneta Hill where the Sky Park will be built. This photo was taken a day after 60 trees were cut in January 17, 2015.
Around midnight in January 17, SM cut about 60 trees in Luneta Hill. The incident outraged many Baguio citizens and concerned groups. Some people, carrying banners and black balloons, staged a small protest in front of the mall on January 19. Others are calling on residents and tourists to boycott the shopping mall.

From a statement released to the media last week, SM Baguio reiterated that its Sky Park project will help Baguio City deal with the effects of climate change. According to the mall, the project is environment-friendly and it will feature green facilities like walls planted with live plants, an underground catchment tank, and a sewage treatment plant.

The protests against the project started in 2012. Concerned Baguio residents and groups like the Cordillera Global Network, the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, and Save 182 fought to stop the mall from proceeding with the project.