Baguio mall extension a green project–SMBy Doris C. Dumlao and Kristine L. Alave
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—The SM Group has reiterated that the P1.2-billion expansion and redevelopment of its Baguio mall would be environmentally sustainable and safeguard not only the greenery but also the air quality and energy usage.
In a press statement amid the uproar caused by its relocation of 182 trees on its property, SM City Baguio said the project would better serve its customers as the first mall in the northern region designed to be certified by LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), the internationally recognized standard for green building design and construction developed by the US Green Building Council.
SM said some of the trees–Alnus and not pine–would be replanted within the mall complex. At the same time, it said it had planted 6,000 pine saplings while another 20,000 were set to be planted within the year in designated watersheds.
It said another 30,000 trees would be planted in the next three years not only within Baguio but as far away as Sto. Tomas and Mt. Pulag.
The expanded SM City Baguio is designed to receive a LEED Gold Rating, which requires the implementation of a minimum of 60 listed points, subject to approval of the Green Building Rating. It also aims to encourage the use of energy efficient public transport by adding an additional mall entrance along Governor Pack Road, the statement said.
Meanwhile, in an interview Thursday, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said that cutting down trees was often necessary and inevitable for economic development.
“If we do not allow trees to be cut, will there be a development such as Fort Bonifacio?” he said, referring to the former tree-shrouded military camp that is now a sprawling concrete commercial and residential development in Taguig City.
Paje said that giving permission to cut down trees for economic projects was a “difficult” matter for the DENR.
Paje made the statement after his department was caught in the middle of the battle between environmentalists and SM City Baguio over the uprooting of 182 trees by the mall in its Luneta Hill compound.
On Wednesday, a Baguio City court issued a three-day temporary protection order (Tepo) against the tree-cutting of trees after environmentalists requested it.
But SM continued to remove the trees under the cover of night.
As of Wednesday, 40 Alnus and one Benguet pine tree had been reported cut or earth-balled.
“It’s always a balancing, high wire act to maintain environmental protection and economic development,” Paje said.
“The problem here is that we cannot just subvert private rights,” he said.
Paje said the DENR had directed private and public entities agencies wanting to cut down trees to implement mitigating measures for the welfare of the public. For every tree they cut, they have to plant three in its place, he said.
The DENR also suggested that trees be saved by earth-balling them and replanting them elsewhere.
This method, however, was too stressful for some trees, Paje admitted, especially for older tree species with deep and expansive root systems.
Paje said hundreds of trees were scheduled to be cut down by the government to make way for projects like transmission lines and highways.
To mitigate the massive tree cutting, the government agencies and private parties involved have been directed to plant other trees, he said.
Paje said the Departments of Energy, Public Works and Highways, and Social Welfare and Development were just three of the government agencies that recently sought permission to chop down trees for various projects.
The DSWD is making space for its new offices in Quezon City, while the DOE said it needed to remove trees to build transmission lines. The DPWH sought permission to cut down around 1,000 trees to make way for the Pangasinan-Tarlac highway.
“For instance, we cannot tell the DOE not to cut down trees if it means installing power lines,” the secretary said.
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