BAGUIO CITY—The Supreme Court en banc has approved the multimillion-peso expansion of SM City Baguio and excluded it from the coverage of a temporary restraining order it issued more than a year ago.
In a three-page en banc resolution, the High Court ordered all the contending parties, particularly the Cordillera Green Network, Save 182 Movement, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and SM Prime Holdings Inc., to submit their respective memoranda within a non-extendible period of 20 days to serve as a basis for the tribunal to make a final ruling on the matter.
While the SC maintained the validity of the TRO it issued on March 24, 2015, in so far as the cutting and balling of trees, it ruled that the phase covering the expansion plan of the giant chain of malls shall be ‘excluded from the scope of the temporary restraining order.’
Earlier, the petitioners elevated to the SC their objection to the December 2014 decision of the Court of Appeals that lifted the Temporary Environmental Protection Order dated April 10, 2012, paving the way for the mall’s Sky Park project in Baguio in December 2014.
SM was able to secure the final approval and necessary permits for the project from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the city government of Baguio and other concerned agencies. Prior to this, inputs from various community groups were gathered and considered to help put this project together.
To help preserve and protect the city’s environment, the project will feature ‘green facilities’ to help absorb the impact of climate change such as a Sky Park, a state-of-the-art sewerage treatment plant, and an underground rainwater catchment tank having a capacity of 7,432.54 cubic meters of water which could be used in mall operations.
Furthermore, “green walls’ consisting of live plants will help improve the air quality in the area, making the mall both relaxing and enjoyable for shoppers. In certain parts of the mall, natural lighting will be used to cater to energy efficiency endeavors.
SM’s Sky Park will include ‘green foliage and water features to help mitigate heat island effect and absorb rainwater. It is a landscape area, park, and viewdeck with ‘green space’ located on the third floor of the existing mall. It will have an area of approximately 4,333 square meters designed as an elevated garden, which contains up to 53 species of trees and plants, with canopied walkways, ponds, and waterscapes.
The project will add a total of 68,123.75 square meters to the original 106,939.35 square meters of the existing mall bringing for a total mall area of around 176,073.26 square meters.
The project will generate 652 additional parking slots, bringing the total parking slots within the mall to around 1,419. Additional pedestrian and vehicle entrances along Gov. Pack Road will be provided by the mall management to help decongest traffic along Session Road, the only gateway to the giant mall in the city.
In addition to the new mall features, eco-friendly LED lights and park finders will also be used in the existing and additional parking spaces to help minimize the emission of harmful carbon or smoke coming from vehicles.
SM was has planted around 60,301 assorted tree saplings in the different parts of Baguio and nearby towns of Tuba and La Trinidad, Benguet in compliance with the permit requiring the mall to plant at least 100 assorted seedlings as a replacement for every tree that it will cut in line with the project implementation.
In a statement, Millie F. Dizon, senior vice-president for marketing and communications, said the expansion plan will also give us the opportunity to repair the existing mall, whose tensile roof was affected by the continuous rains; as well as to update it to serve our customers better.