Court extends SM Baguio TEPO

Voltaire Tupaz
The order remains in effect until the case pending in court is resolved

MANILA, Philippines – Not only for 3 days but until their complaint is heard. Baguio protesters scored another legal victory in their fight to save trees that will be cut to give way to an SM mall’s parking facility and entertainment plaza in the country’s summer capital.

At 5 pm on Friday, April 13, Judge Antonio Estevis, presiding judge of the environmental court of the Baguio Regional Trial Court Branch 5, issued an order extending an April 11 temporary environmental protection order (TEPO) that stopped the cutting of trees on Luneta Hill in Baguio City.

Estevis heard the “very urgent motion to extend TEPO” filed by the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) on behalf of concerned Baguio citizens opposing the expansion project of SM Baguio.

Complainants cited as basis of their motion the “extreme urgency to prevent Defendant SMIC [SM Investments Corporation] from continuing its earth-balling/tree-cutting operations.” This urgency, they said, was “still clear and apparent.”

“Unless the Temporary Protection Order dated April 10, 2012 is extended, the Plaintiffs will suffer grave injustice and irreparable injury before the matter could be heard on notice, for the reason that Defendant SMIC even defied the Temporary Protection Order when it was, in fact, already effective from the moment SMIC received a copy of it,” the complainants argued.

The DENR reported that 40 Alnus and one Benguet pine tree on Luneta Hill had already been cut or earth-balled. 

The environment court ruled to extend the TEPO, which expired on Friday, April 13. The TEPO will remain in effect until the case, which is still pending in court, is resolved. The case was filed against Environment Secretrary Ramon Paje, Director Juan Miguel T. Cuna of the Environmental Management Bureau, Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson, and SMIC.

Temporary victory

The NUPL filed a complaint last February 23 on behalf of the Cordillera Global Network, Cordillera Peoples Alliance, Cordillera Indigenous Peoples Legal Center, Cordillera Ecological Pine Center, and other concerned citizens of Baguio. They urged the environment court to:

a. Set aside as null and void the permit granted by Paje to SMIC

b. Set aside as null and void the building permit issued by the City Building and Architecture office in favor of SMIC

c. Permanently enjoin SMIC from cutting and/or earthballing the 182 pine and alnus trees, and make the TEPO permanent

Lead counsel Cheryl Daytec Yangot told Rappler that “this is a temporary victory. The bigger hurdle is the complaint we filed.” – Rappler.com