DENR allows mall to only ‘ball’ trees
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has withdrawn its permit to the SM Group to cut down trees in the planned expansion of its mall in Baguio City.
After a dialogue with stakeholders held in Camp Crame in Quezon City on Monday, the DENR revised its permit and told the company to uproot and replant all the 182 trees affected by the mall expansion through a “tree balling” procedure.
The original permit allows SM to cut down 40 trees and to ball the rest of the 142 trees within a 1.1-hectare portion of its eight-hectare property in Baguio.
During the dialogue presided by Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo and Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, SM denied that it had already cut some trees.
Environmental activists and Baguio residents have fiercely protested SM’s planned tree-cutting and tree-balling operation.
Robredo said local officials, representatives of NGOs and SM executives would conduct a joint verification on Wednesday to see if any of the trees have been cut.
He said the revised DENR permit carried new conditions to which SM agreed, including planting 50,000 trees within three years instead of the original offer of 5,000 trees.
“There is a compensatory plan if they agree on balling the 182 trees,” Robredo said. Environmentalists have pointed out that of the hundreds of pine trees balled in Camp John Hay in Baguio, only 17 percent survived the transfer.
Robredo said he respected SM’s proprietary rights so long as these have complied with the government’s conditions. “We need to recognize all the rights, those of the landowner, those of environmentalists. But there are no absolutes,” he said.
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