BAGUIO CITY—-Shopping mall giant SM had considered every technique to safely uproot and transfer the pine and alnus trees it intends to relocate to make way for the expansion of its Baguio mall because Luneta Hill’s terrain could not accommodate equipment without hurting other trees in the area, an environment official said.
Augusto Lagon, technical director for forestry of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in the Cordillera, said at one point, SM considered using a helicopter or a hot air balloon which would raise uprooted pine trees from their location and which would nestle them safely onto an adjacent section of the hill.
In the end, SM had to use a backhoe and a crane to uproot and transfer a pine tree between April 9 and 10, Lagon said.
A conventional earth-balling machine would not be able to hold its weight firmly in place on Luneta Hill’s slopes, he said.
The mall managed to transfer a pine tree and 40 alnus trees before it heeded a temporary environmental protection order imposed by Regional Trial Court Judge Antonio Esteves, who is hearing a civil suit filed by the Cordillera Global Network against SM.
On Wednesday, DENR officials and a University of the Philippines (UP) Baguio team joined an inspection conducted by groups opposing the displacement of 182 trees at Luneta Hill.
The inspection was the result of a dialogue between SM, led by its president, Hans Sy, and the representatives of Baguio groups and residents opposing the earth-balling of trees. Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo gathered the two groups in Metro Manila on Monday.
A UP Baguio inspection report issued on Wednesday cited the condition of 13 pine trees, which had been prepared for transfer. The report was sent to the Inquirer by Dr. Wilfredo Alangui, UP Baguio College of Science dean.
The trees’ roots were wrapped in sack and cloth when the DENR and the UP Baguio team saw them.