BAGUIO CITY – Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan said SM Prime Holdings, Inc. already posted the required P6 million to pursue the cutting of around 60 assorted pine and alnus trees in order to pave the way for the construction of its mall expansion project pursuant to the conditions imposed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) under the amended environmental compliance certificate (ECC) and tree cutting and earthballing permits issued for the project.
Domogan said the bond will remain with the city government during the implementation of the mall expansion project to guarantee the compliance of the mall developer to the terms and conditions of the ECC and the other pertinent permits and to cover whatever damages to be incurred during the duration of the project.
“We have no authority to stop SM’s mall expansion project because it complied with all the requisites of its project. If we will order the stoppage of their project, it will open the floodgates to the filing of administrative and criminal charges against us,” Domogan stressed.
He explained private property owners have rights over their private properties that must be protected and upheld pursuant to the Civil Code of the Philippines that it is very difficult to stop the mall expansion project considering that SM able to secure all the necessary permits for their project.
Aside from requiring SM management to post the P6 million cash bond, the DENR also mandated SM to plant 100 assorted tree seedlings for every tree that will be cut or a total of 6,000 tree seedlings three months after the commencement of its mall expansion project to serve as its compensatory requirement for the trees that will be cut.
Earlier, the Special 9th Division of the Court of Appeals (CA) junked a battery of petitions filed by environmentalists against the mall expansion project and subsequently lifted the Temporary Environment Protection Order (TEPO) that paved the way for the start of the project implementation.
According to the local chief executive, the rights of private owners over their properties was underscored by the CA decision which stated that public consultations are no longer required for the mall expansion project because it is being undertaken by a private entity over its private property.
Instead of criticizing and denouncing the project, Domogan appealed to critics to help the DENR and city government to monitor the compliance of SM to its obligation to plant at least 6,000 assorted tree seedlings as compensatory requirement for the trees to be cut and its commitment to plant an additional 500,000 assorted tree seedlings in the different parts of Baguio and Benguet for a period of five years.
SM was ordered to closely coordinate with the DENR and city government in order to ascertain the areas where the committed trees will be planted and monitored in order to make sure that all the trees will survive to serve their purpose for the benefit of the present and future generations.
He cited while areas in the city are to be developed for various purposes, there are also areas that will be preserved for greenbelt purposes in order to sustain the city’s state of the environment beneficial to the present and future generations. By Dexter A. See