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Environment groups to 'Occupy SM Baguio' Jan. 20

January 18, 2012 5:50pm

Environment groups will hold a rally dubbed "Occupy SM Baguio" on January 20 to protest against the redevelopment of SM City Baguio, which will involve the balling of more than a hundred trees in Luneta Hill.

Led by the Cordillera Ecological Center (PINE TREE), the rally will be held along Upper Session Road.
In a petition against SM's redevelopment, PINE TREE director Dr. Michael Bengwayan accused the company of being “callously insensitive,” and “virtually [sentencing] to death a total of 182 trees within the Luneta Hill area where SMDC will pave way for another parking lot.”
The petition also opposed the decision of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to grant the SM Development Corporation (SMDC) a cutting, balling and pruning permit.

According to the latest update on his Twitter page, the petition has gathered 4,071 signatures as of January 17.
“This shows that DENR does not fully appreciate and understand the contributions of these trees which have already grown up in view of the global warming and environmental threats,” the petition said.

In an interview with GMA News Online, Bengwayan said "the DENR has never responded officially or unofficially to us."

As of this posting, GMA News Online is still trying to get a statement from the DENR.
SM Management
Meanwhile, SM Management insisted that their redevelopment plans comply with the requirements stipulated in the permit from the DENR.
In a statement on their official Facebook page, SM Management said: “We strictly followed the stipulations on the permits to ball out the trees carefully and have utilized recommended specialists for this activity who will also replant them in designated areas in the SM property.”
They also said that they are not only complying with, but going beyond the permit’s terms by planting 50 saplings for every balled tree instead of the required 20.

However, according to Bengwayan, this will not be enough to compensate for the loss of the trees. 
In a telephone interview with GMA News Online, Bengwayan said: "It's not as simple as that. The trees are part of the heritage of Baguio, you can't change that. No amount of replanting can replace that...those saplings will only be effective 10 to 15 years from now."
"Pine trees absorb more than four tons of carbon dioxide every year. The people of Baguio have a right to breathe fresh air. If you take away the trees, you deprive them of that...wala na ngang naiwan na kahoy dito, tapos aalisin pa nila. My suggestion to them is to build somewhere else," he added.
Bengwayan also said that they are willing to enter a dialogue with SM, the Baguio City government, and the DENR after the protest. - VVP/RSJ/HS, GMA News

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