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SC orders permanent stop to cutting of trees for SM Baguio expansion

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THE SUPREME Court (SC) has permanently prohibited the cutting and transferring of trees in Luneta Hill in Baguio City for the expansion of SM Prime Holdings, Inc.’s (SMPHI) SM shopping mall. The justices, in their en banc session on Wednesday held at the SC Compound in Baguio City for the high court’s traditional summer sessions there, made permanent the temporary restraining order it issued on March 24, 2015 on the “cutting and balling of trees” in Luneta Hill, according to SC Public Information Chief Brian Keith F. Hosaka. “This is without prejudice to the filing of another application for an environmental compliance certificate in accordance with existing laws and regulations,” Mr. Hosaka added. SMPHI legal counsel Ryan San Juan, in a statement, said, “We have not received any resolution on this matter from the Supreme Court.” The case stemmed from the petition of the Cordillera Global Network (CGN), which sought to stop the cutting of trees after the management of SM City Baguio reportedly cut 60 old-growth pine trees in Jan. 2015. SM City Baguio proceeded with the clearing of portions of Luneta Hill following the decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) in Dec. 2014 that lifted the temporary protection order issued in April 2012. The CA dismissed the petition of CGN, ruling that it failed to prove that the cutting of trees would incur irreparable damage to the environment and cultural heritage. SM City Baguio plans to build a seven-storey ‘Sky Park’ project in the area. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas