BAGUIO CITY – The recent decision of the Special 9th Division of Court of Appeals (CA) dismissing the battery of petitions filed by environmentalists against the SM City Baguio mall expansion project and the subsequent lifting of the Temporary Environment Protection (TEPO) paved the way for the full blast implementation of the long overdue project that will be beneficial to the growth and development of the country’s undisputed Summer Capital.
Likewise, SM was able to secure the final approval and necessary ECC, tree cutting and earthballing and building permits for the project from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the city government of Baguio and other concerned agencies.
From the original 182 pine and alnus trees and saplings that were supposed to be cut and earthballed in the original plan, the owner of the giant chain of malls in the country agreed to downgrade its expansion project that will pave the way to the cutting and earthballing of only 60 trees and saplings in the development area having a building footprint of only 8,339.70 square meters from the original 11,461.44 square meters.
The expansion will allow SM to further serve its customers in the city by bringing in more shopping and leisure excitement, as well as more business and employment opportunities, especially for qualified local residents. It will also be an attraction for the increasing number of tourists in the city because it will incorporate the so-called ‘green architecture.’
In terms of contribution to the efforts to preserve and protect the city’s environment, the project will feature ‘green facilities’ to help absorb the impact of climate change such as a Sky Park, a state-of-the-art sewerage treatment plant (STP), and an underground rainwater catchment tank having a capacity of 7,432.54 cubic meters of water which could be used in the mall operations.
The STP will be constructed below basement 3 of the mall expansion and it will have a capacity of at least 1,200 cubic meters daily in accordance with the amended environmental compliance certificate (ECC) to accommodate future waste water discharge of the existing mall and the expansion project. Sewer and waste water will be treated in the STP and will thereafter be recycled for non-potable uses.
Furthermore, “green walls’ consisting of live plants will help improve the air quality in the area, making the mall both relaxing and enjoyable for the whole family. In certain parts of the mall, natural lighting will be used to cater to energy efficiency endeavors.
SM’s Sky Park will include ‘green foliage and water features to help mitigate heat island effect and absorb rain water. It is a landscape area, park and viewdeck with ‘green space’ located in the third floor of the existing mall. It will have an area of approximately 4,333 square meters designed as an elevated garden, which contain up to 53 species of trees and plants not merely potted plants with canopied walkways, ponds and waterscapes.
The project will add a total of 68,123.75 square meters to the original 106,939.35 existing mall bringing the total mall area to around 176,073.26 square meters.
In terms of contribution to the solutions to the city’s parking problems, the project will generate a total of 652 additional parking slots bringing the total parking slots within the mall to around 1,419. Additional pedestrian and vehicle entrances along Gov. Pack Road will be provided by the mall management in order to help decongest traffic along Session Road, the only gateway to the giant mall in the city.
In addition to the new mall features, eco-friendly LED lights and park finders will also be used in the existing and additional parking spaces to help minimize the emission of harmful carbon or smoke coming from vehicles since available parking spaces will be easier to find.
At the same time, SM management said it was already able to plant around 60,000 assorted tree saplings in the different parts of Baguio and nearby towns of Tuba and La Trinidad, Benguet in compliance to the tree cutting permit requiring the mall to plant at least 100 assorted seedlings as a replacement for every tree that will be cut to pave the way for the project to push through.
Moreover, it committed to plant more than 500,000 assorted tree seedlings in the different parts of Baguio and Benguet in coordination with the DENR and the concerned local governments in the next five years as part of the mall’s commitment to assist the government in preserving and protecting the city’s environment.
One of the best practices of SM in its environmental preservation and protection efforts is the hiring of foresters who will be in charge of monitoring the trees to be planted and replace those which are not able to survive and that the same is done for a period of more or less three years until the tree seedlings shall have been assessed to be able to freely grow and serve their purposes for the present and future generations.
Based on studies by the DENR forest management services, young trees are capable of sequestering at least 14 tons of carbon per hectare for every tree compared to the century-old trees that reportedly stop carbon sequestration after reaching the century mark of their ages.
By Dexter A. See