SM to plant 500k trees in Benguet

BAGUIO CITY, Benguet—SM Mall will plant 100 seedlings for every tree they cut in their expansion area on Luneta Hill and 500,000 seedlings more in various parts of the city and the province in the next five years, Mayor Mauricio Domogan said on Thursday.

He said the company has posted a P6 million bond to guarantee compliance to environmental laws and to cover possible damages caused during implementation of the project.

“We have no authority to stop SM because it complied with all the requisites of the project. If we will order the stoppage of their project, it will open the floodgates to the filing of administrative and criminal charges against us,” Domogan said.

The Court of Appeals cleared the way for SM’s expansion after it dismissed a petition filed by environmentalists over the cutting of pine and alnus trees in the area. The Court gave weight to right of owners to develop their properties.

SM complied with all requirements for expansion and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) gave its management an amended Environment Compliance Certificate. On claims that no public consultations were made, the Court said it was not necessary because the project involved private property.

Instead of criticizing the project, Domogan appealed on critics to help the DENR and the city monitor SM’s compliance to its commitments, particularly the planting of 500,000 seedlings in various parts of the city and the province.

He said the DENR and city will determine the areas where SM will conduct tree planting, but the people should help monitor the growth of the plants so it will serve its purpose for the benefit of the present and future generations.

Domogan said infrastructure developments in the city will be encouraged but some parts will be reserved for greenbelt purposes in order to sustain the city’s state of the environment.

To make travel in the area safe for motorists, the national government released P16.4 billion to pave eighty five percent of national roads in the region, according to Public Works and Highways regional director Edilberto Carabbacan.

“The region’s eco-tourism industry will be the primary beneficiary of paved roads because it is now easier to travel in various parts of the region. Travel to different tourist destinations have been cut down to just hours,” Carabbacan said.

The budget for paving of national roads was P3.3 billion in 2012, but it doubled to P6.74 in 2013. Last year the budget was P6.4 billion.

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