MANILA, Philippines—The Roman Catholic bishop of Baguio City supported calls by various groups on Wednesday for a boycott of SM malls across the country in protest of its clearing of trees to make room from the expansion of its mall in the City of Pines.
Bishop Carlito Cenzon said a boycott was one way to show how SM City Baguio had insulted the people and the authorities by defying court orders.
“They’ve already showed their hardened hearts [by defying the law] so the boycott must already begin. Do not patronize them. Stay away from them,” Cenzon told reporters in a phone-patch interview Wednesday.
“We are appealing to [SM] not to proceed with the expansion anymore and stop harming our trees. It’s really a serious matter if they will destroy our oxygen tank,” he added.
The bishop said he was not sure whether other SM malls in the country have acted the same way “but if they also have this kind of policy, I advise the people to really think about it. Why do we continue to patronize a monster?”
Baguio Regional Trial Court Branch 6 on Tuesday issued a three-day temporary environmental protection order against SM, which barred it from proceeding with the transplanting of 182 alnus and pine trees from its Luneta Hill compound to make way for its expansion project.
Several environmental and religious groups in the area claimed that the SM group had refused to receive the court order and continued with the diggings.
“It’s a defiance of a standing court order… that’s a crime,” said the prelate, adding that the cutting or the uprooting of the trees was a sin against the people and God.
Cenzon said he was among those who protested the mall project, which included the balling of over a hundred trees to give way to an extension of the shopping mall.
“We have been protesting against it but the problem is why did the Department of Environment and Natural Resources allow it,” the prelate said.
According to SM City Baguio, consultations had been made with the DENR and environmental experts before it proceeded with the balling or uprooting of the trees with a small part of their root systems intact.