SM: We’re replanting earth-balled trees

[UPDATED] SM Baguio releases a 3-page statement amid online rage over its decision to uproot trees for its mall expansion

[UPDATED] MANILA, Philippines – Facing online rage over the cutting of trees for their mall expansion, SM City Baguio said it has begun to replant the earth-balled trees aside from planting 50,000 new trees to support Baguio’s “re-regreening.”

In a 3-page statement Tuesday, April 10, SM Baguio also said it held “close consultations” with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, as well as environmental experts and other mall departments, before it conducted the earth-balling of trees. “This aims to ensure the high survival of the affected trees,” the local chain of the mall giant said.

“SM reiterates its concern for the environment and that the building expansion shall be sustaining the environment, not only the trees, but the other environment aspects such as air quality and energy efficiency,” SM said.

The mall’s controversial plan to transplant the affected trees, however, is bound to fail and poses harm to Baguio in the long run, experts told Rappler in an earlier story. 

Pollutants are concentrated in the area so there must be a concentration of vegetation. Trees intercept and absorb pollutants,” said Benguet State University professor John Tacloy in an interview.

‘Soil erosion concern’

Justifying its expansion, SM Baguio cited its concern with top soil erosion “that might eventually affect the (structure) of the existing building.” The mall said the problem persists despite technical consultants’ effortsto remedy the problem.

“In order to permanently solve this, a retaining wall structure needs to be constructed to protect the building. This will entail excavation that will affect the trees in the area. SM is taking all measures to relocate them,” SM said.

The mall also said it envisions the expanded, renovated SM Baguio as “a prime tourist destination in the city that will be a shining example of sustainability and environmental awareness.”

SM said the renovated mall, for one, includes a “lushly landscaped Roof Garden with delightful water features” that uses Green Roof Technology. This, the mall said, “will create an environment for vegetation growth that is as close to the plants’ natural environment.”

It will also use energy-efficient lighting, the mall said.

Court order vs SM

On the same day SM released the statement, a Baguio court issued an order to stop SM from further cutting trees – a temporary victory for protesters.

Since Monday evening, netizens have flared on Twitter over SM’s uprooting of trees in the Philippines’ summer capital. The hashtag #SaveBaguioPineTrees is now the Philippines’ top trending topic as of posting time, while 2 other related topics are also trending on Twitter.

Meanwhile, Rappler is conducting an online discussion on the issue using the hashtag #BaguioTrees. – Rappler.com