MANILA, Philippines – He blessed SM Baguio when it opened in 2003, but the bishop of Baguio will no longer conduct blessings, let alone hold masses in the mall in protest of its expansion project.
“I have decided — and the priests agree with me — to suspend permission, to hold masses in SM (Baguio) and even blessings of stalls,” Baguio Bishop Carlito Cenzon told Rappler on Sunday, April 15, 2012.
“That is an instruction. I have control over the places where masses can be held,” Cenzon asserted.
Masses are held every 9 a.m. on Sunday at mall’s atrium to allow shoppers to worship before the 10 a.m. opening of the mall.
“I will count the number of trees which will die. Every tree that dies, that’s one year of suspension. If trees die, (count the number) and that’s the number of years we will not hold masses at SM,” Cenzon said.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) reported that 40 Alnus and one Benguet pine tree on Luneta Hill had already been cut or earth-balled.
A total of 182 trees on the site will be cut or earth-balled to give way to the proposed SM Baguio parking facility and entertainment building.
In a previous statement, SM reiterated that the P1.2-billion expansion and redevelopment of SM City Baguio would be environmentally sustainable.
It said the project would make SM Baguio the first shopping mall in northern Luzon that would have a LEED-certified. It stresed that since the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (Leed) is an internationally recognized standard for green building design and construction developed by the United States Green Building Council, customers would benefit from it as well.
Cenzon highlighted that the issue with SM is beyond legal matters.
He stressed that, while he received a letter from SM management explaining that the expansion project has secured necessary permits, he shrugged it off since, for him, the “cry of the trees” matters more.
“They may have complied with legal requirements, but (my concern) is beyond what is legal. They have to listen to the clamor of the people, and the cry of the trees,” the bishop said.
But Cenzon welcomed the extension of the temporary environmental protection order issued by an environment court to stop the cutting and earth-balling of trees.
“Goodbye, SM. We will continue the fight,” Cenzon added, reiterating his call to boycott the mall.
This is not the first time that Cenzon has joined protests against SM. In 2003, the bishop joined Baguio protesters opposing the operation of casino in the city including the slot machines in SM. – Rappler.com