February 26, 2012 in Baguio City
By ALDWIN QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY – Various groups opposing the plan of SM Mall to remove 182 trees from the Luneta Hill to pave way for its expansion trooped to the session hall of the Sangguniang Panlungsod here to air their stand.
Former City Mayor and retired Judge Braulio Yaranon presented to the members of the council copies of Original Certificate of Titles applied to the property at the Luneta Hill where SM stands.
He showed the councilors a copy of the OCT number 1 date 1910 acquired by the Insular Government of the Philippines. This was issued by the land registration court of Baguio. According to the former mayor, it has never been the subject of any transaction and the title is still valid.
Yaranon also showed the copy of OCT 0282, this is in the name of the heirs of Placido Carantes. This was issued by the Land Registration Court through Judge Sinforoso Fangonil and has a Transfer of Certificate of Titles dated December 23, 1988. He also presented a copy of OCT in the name of the National Development Company, a predecessor of SM dated November 1963. Yaranon said it was cancelled and replaced in the name of SM Development Corporation.
Yaranon challenged the City Council that it is their duty to look after the properties of Baguio. He said that under the law, the body should determine which of the three titles be carried and decide what should be done with the permit of SM to operate.
He said that their decision should be one beneficial to the people of Baguio.
Perry Mendoza of the Tongtongan Ti Umili-Cordillera Peoples Alliance (TTU-CPA) read their statement on the planned expansion of SM. According to the statement, to make a stand for the the 182 trees facing danger of being uprooted is to take a stand for Kafagway, the old Baguio which was pine-clad and fog-hugged and a community of humble, talented and hardworking people, and ancestral land to the original Ibaloi families and clans that inhabited it.
Mendoza presented the questions over the controversies sorrounding SM.
In the statement, it was asked if SM was a favored business in Baguio.
Mendoza explained that the Council as the seat of government of Baguio is responsible for the progress of local and homegrown businesses. “Bringing SM may have given advantage to outside and larger capital to compete for the market nurtured by local homegrown businesses and greatly contributed to the care of the city. We would like to know how exactly does Baguio City benefit from SM in terms of taxes? Services?,” Mendoza read.
The statement also said that SM’s proposed plan for a multi-level parking area and seven storys high suggests it may be gearing for grand expansion to monopolize the business.
TTU-CPA urged the council to investigate immediate concerns over the SM controversy. The organization also called on the people of Baguio to sustain their protest and raise their unity for the cause.
Cordillera Ecological Center Director Michael Bengwayan said that it is time that the people of Baguio fight for their legacy. He added that the trees are part of God gifts to the people of the City. “ We cannot afford to say to our sons and daughters that we are sorry that we did not do anything to save the environment,” said Bengwayan.
The groups urged the city council to recall the building permit of SM given by the City Buildings and Architecture Office (CBAO); conduct of a public hearing and consultation; demand that SM prove their expansion is socially acceptable by presentng their plan in a public hearing; and to request the Department of Environment and natural Resources and SM to show proper documents on the matter.
Councilor Richard Cariño suggested that the council will move for a resolution to stop SM from proceeding to cutting or earthball the trees pending the conduct of a public consultation.
Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda also suggested that a copy of the deed of sale of the Luneta Hill property as it has not yet been furnished to the body.
A public hearing/ consultation was agreed upon and set on February 27 at the session hall. # nordis.net