When plans for SM City Baguio were unveiled around 10 years ago, people were naturally offended by the idea. SM malls are known for being large sprawling structures, and one can imagine how out of place a mall would be in Baguio City. Despite criticism and protest, the plans pushed through, and today, SM stands there as a hulking eyesore. Even if the place uses natural lighting, has no air conditioning, and features gardens, they don’t seem to be enough to make up for plopping a huge structure like SM on top of Luneta Hill in a city that’s struggling environmentally. People went to the mall anyway–no one can resist the siren call of an SM mall in their midst.
And then a few days ago, this picture came out.
This picture shows trees being cut to make way for new facilities being built as part of SM City Baguio’s redevelopment plan. Rappler.com reports that SM has plans to cut a total of 182 trees from the hill, an issue which local residents have been protesting since January this year. SM has released a statement, but the concept of cutting trees to expand the mall still doesn’t sit well with many people. SM promises that the trees are being earthballed and that they will be replanting new trees as well. However, with SM being a major company that conducts rapid and aggressive expansions of its properties all over the country, to the point where I think the Philippines will be eventually swallowed up by their malls, supermarkets, and high-rise residential buildings. I have to say I’m raising a skeptical eyebrow at that statement.
A Temporary Environment Protection Order has been issued, halting the project for now. For people who have been protesting against the tree cutting and SM’s greed, the TEPO is a very good thing, but there’s no doubt that we’d all like to see SM do away with their redevelopment plans permanently. I’m not holding my breath, though, because when has SM paid attention to protests in the first place? Not when they were building SM Marikina, and certainly not when people objected to the construction of Berkeley Residences and Blue Residences along Katipunan Avenue.
Update: Oh well.
Photo from the Boycott SM Baguio Facebook group