Baguio court halts SM trees removal
BAGUIO CITY—A court here on Tuesday ordered the SM City Baguio mall to stop transplanting trees from its Luneta Hill compound as part of its expansion.
Judge Cleto Villacorta III of Regional Trial Court Branch 6 issued a three-day temporary restraining order on SM which freezes all development activity at the mall.
Villacorta issued the order pending a ruling by RTC Judge Antonio Esteves on a February 23 petition for a civil injunction and temporary environmental protection order (Tepo) filed against SM City Baguio by the Cordillera Global Network (CGN).
Gloria Abaeo, CGN president, said Esteves was sick on Tuesday and could not hold a hearing so Villacorta took over as the case’s pairing judge.
In a statement, SM City Baguio said consultations between its technical, engineering and design department and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources as well as other environmental experts had preceded the balling of the trees.
This aims to ensure the high survival of the trees, it said.
Aside from this, it added, SM would be planting over 50,000 trees as part of its commitment to Baguio’s regreening program.
SM said the mall expansion was a result of top soil erosion that could eventually affect the structural integrity of the existing building.
In order to permanently solve this, it said, a retaining wall needed to be constructed, entailing an excavation that would affect the trees.