SM stops earthwork in deference to TRO
by Harley F. Palangchao
SM City Baguio stopped all activities related to its SkyPark project at Luneta Hill in compliance to the temporary restraining order issued by the Supreme Court en banc.
In its three-page order dated March 24, the SC enjoined SM, its agents, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to set aside the Court of Appeals decision on Dec. 12, 2014, which gave the green light for the expansion project of SM City Baguio.
The SC resolution also stopped any cutting and earthballing of trees at Luneta Hill while it ordered respondents to comment within 10 days from receipt of the resolution.
However, 60 trees, mostly pine, have already been cut under the cloak of darkness last Jan. 17.
SM earlier said the cutting of 60 trees was above board as the company was able to secure all permits from concerned agencies and offices.
SM also posted a P6 million bond to ensure compliance with the terms set by the DENR when it issued clearances and tree cutting permit.
Among the terms was for SM to plant 5,000 trees, which the mall giant claimed it already complied, adding that it has committed to plant 500,000 more trees within Baguio and Benguet in five years.
Sought for their comments on Wednesday, SM Vice President for Operations Bien Mateo said there is no problem with the mall and its agency complying with the SC order.
“SM will comply with the directive of the Supreme Court,” Mateo said in a text message.
The petitioners led by the Cordillera Green Network earlier assailed the ruling of the CA, especially when it ruled the latter failed to establish that the tree cutting will have irreparable damage to the city’s environment.
“We maintain our position on the irregularity in the issuance of the amended environmental compliance certificate, tree-cutting and earthballing permit, and the building permit,” said one of the petitioners.
The petitioners also insisted the cutting of 182 trees will have an adverse effect on the ecological balance and environmental integrity of Baguio City.
SM said the Sky Park project will feature green facilities such as a sewerage treatment plant and an underground rainwater catchment tank that can hold 7,432.54 cubic meters (m3) of water to be used in the mall’s operation.
The STP will have a capacity of at least 1,200m3 daily in accordance with the amended ECC to accommodate future wastewater discharge of the existing mall and the expansion project. Sewer and wastewater will be treated in the STP and recycled for non-potable uses.
The project will also provide additional 652 parking spaces, will add a total of 68,123.75 square meters to the original 106,939.35sq.m. existing mall bringing the total mall area to around 176,073.26sq.m.