Baguio diocese stops Sunday Masses, religious rites at mallInquirer Northern Luzon
BAGUIO CITY—The Catholic diocese of Baguio on Sunday suspended the holding of Masses at the SM City Baguio in protest of the earth balling or transfer of 182 pine and alnus trees in its Luneta Hill compound to make way for the mall’s expansion.
A letter signed by Bishop Carlito Cenzon and 14 priests, which was read in Masses in the city, said the bishop decided to withhold the permission to celebrate the Eucharist at SM after consulting with parish priests here.
Masses are held every 9 a.m. on Sunday at SM City Baguio’s atrium to allow shoppers to worship before the mall opens at 10 a.m.
The letter said other religious activities, such as blessings, at the mall’s premises will not be allowed starting April 15.
“Our concern for the good of our people entails the care for the environment. This is the consistent social teaching of the Catholic Church,” Cenzon and the priests said in the letter, which was also published in a local weekly.
“The plan of SM to cut down or earth ball 182 trees at Luneta Hill in order to develop further its business establishment has met stiff resistance and protests from the people of our city. Despite all these reactions, SM has continued with its plan,” they said.
“Since the Holy Mass is the most sacred worship of the Church that presupposes the spirit of reconciliation and unity, the bishop, in consultation with the parish priests of Baguio, is withholding the permission to celebrate the Eucharist at SM,” they added.
On Wednesday, Cenzon and environmental advocates led some 1,000 residents in protesting the earth balling of trees at the shopping mall compound, which started Monday night.
The Baguio Regional Trial Court, however, issued on Tuesday a 72-hour temporary environmental protection order (TEPO) that directed the mall management to stop moving trees at Luneta Hill. The TEPO expired on Friday but the court extended it indefinitely.
SM, in an earlier statement, said its representatives from Metro Manila went to Baguio City on Wednesday to receive a copy of the TEPO. It said the company had suspended the earth balling in Luneta Hill.
Clarence Baguilat, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) director in the Cordilleras, said 40 alnus trees and a pine tree were uprooted and transplanted to a different site in Luneta Hill by workers hired by SM in the presence of DENR personnel.
SM, in another statement, reiterated that the P1.2-billion expansion and redevelopment of SM City Baguio would be environmentally sustainable.
It said the project would better serve its customers as the first shopping mall in northern Luzon designed to be certified LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design], the internationally recognized standard for green building design and construction developed by the United States Green Building Council.
Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, in a visit here on Thursday, said Malacañang would gather on Monday SM officials and representatives from the city government and environmental groups to settle their dispute over the displacement of trees from Luneta Hill.