The SM Group has prevailed in cases filed against the retail and property development conglomerate by the environmental organization Cordillera Global Network in connection with its tree-cutting and mall expansion activities in Baguio.
In a decision promulgated December 12, 2014, the Court of Appeals (CA) Special Ninth Division dismissed all cases filed against SM Group in cutting 182 pine and alnus trees and replanting them elsewhere to give way to the expansion of its SM City Baguio mall and building of SM Sky Park.
“Wherefore, judgement is hereby rendered dismissing the complaints dated February 23, 2012 and April 13, 2012 and the Amended Urgent Petition to Cite Defendant for Contempt dated April 20, 2012. The Temporary Environmental Protection Order dated April 10, 2012 is hereby lifted,” the decision read.
Before going to the CA, the Cordillera Global Network had already lost three complaints against the SM Group filed at the Baguio Regional Trial Court.
With the controversial earth-balling of the 182 trees, the Sy-led conglomerate had promised to pursue reforestation efforts within SM City Baguio, in various parts of Baguio City, several locations in Benguet, and even in other suitable areas nationwide.
The SM Group also stressed that “several environment-friendly features” will be incorporated in the SM Baguio expansion.
These include an improved sewage treatment plant, an underground rainwater collection system, a sky garden, and a design to prevent topsoil erosion.
In a separate statement, SM Supermalls President Annie Garcia said final approval and necessary permits for the mall and Sky Park are already secured from concerned agencies.
Garcia said that aside from the SM City Baguio mall, the Sky Park will also feature green walls with live plants, and will also include a sewage treatment plant and underground rainwater catchment tank to help compensate for the tree cutting needed to clear space to build the establishment.
“The excess space of the catchment tank will provide additional parking that will help decongest traffic along Upper Session Road,” she added.
Earlier, Cordillera Global Network argued that with the earth-balling activities, the Sy-led powerhouse will “exacerbate the aerial situation in Session Road and will be detrimental to the health of the residents of the city of Baguio.”
The Sy-led Group housed by conglomerate SM Investments Corp. has been establishing SM malls since incorporation in 1960, through subsidary SM Prime Holdings Inc.