A joint project of SM and GSIS
BAGUIO CITY (May 24) – A plan to alter the land use of pinestand within the Baguio Convention Center was confirmed before the city council Monday by Shoemart Development Corporation (SMDC) Representative Carlo Alampay.
The plan includes the construction of a condotel complex under a joint venture between the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and the SMDC, according to Alampay.
Alampay presented before the body a concept plan for the said project dubbed “Baguio Air.” It would involve the development of the 1.4 hectare area with the construction of four 13-storey condotel buildings and commercial complex as highlights.
Alampay said that under the joint venture, SM would finance and undertake the constructions while GSIS would contribute the land.
It would also include the “redevelopment” of the Baguio Convention Center and the Sunshine Park.
Preserving the trees
Alampay however assured that the development framework takes into consideration concerns for the environmental preservation. He said they hired a private company, the Manila Seedling Bank Foundation to guide the firm on preserving the trees in the area.
Alampay said the company has inventoried a total of 967 trees in the area. A total of 313 trees were recommended for cutting and 105 for balling and transplanting thus, a total of 549 trees will remain, according to Alampay.
Alampay said the project intends to convert the rooftops of the said buildings into garden decks.
Representatives from SM, GSIS and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) regional office were invited by the council to clarify the issue in the light of pending proposals opposing any development in the subject area.
Alampay assured that everything will be subject to approval by the city council. He said they have submitted a letter of intent to Mayor Reinaldo A. Bautista but the city council has yet to receive a copy of the said letter.
DENR-CAR’s Guillermo Fianza informed the council his office has not received any application for tree cutting permit from SM and assured that no application will be processed unless the same is endorsed by the city government.
The city council asked SM to submit copies of the joint venture agreement and other documents. The councilors, however, asked Alampay to consider that the area being eyed is classified as institutional and therefore cannot be built on; there are questions as to the ownership of the subject lot with cases still pending before the courts; there is an agreement between the GSIS and the city as to the purchase of the convention center; and if ever implemented, the project should address concerns on accessibility by the local populace and must answer the acute need for housing facilities in the city.
Three proposals are now pending before the city council calling for the preservation of the pine forest as such and opposing any plan to development the same into anything but a pine forest.
Councilor Richard Carino filed a resolution “opposing any plan to cut trees or construct a building by SM properties or any other persons over the lot situated between the Baguio Convention Center and Court of Appeals building.”
Councilors Fred Bagbagen, Isabelo Cosalan Jr. and Elaine Sembrano’s joint proposed resolution also opposed the “removal of the Pine Forest at the BCC grounds to allow construction of a commercial structure by private developers.”
Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda, meanwhile, wants to request the GSIS to submit a letter of intent for whatever development it may undertake in area.
The councilors said that removing the woodland would have adverse effect on the environment as apart from being one of the few remaining pinestands in the area, it supplies part of the water needs of the city.
Bautista, in his media briefing assured that the city’s interest will be considered before any development will be allowed in the area. He said the area should be preserved as such and that the proponents instead find other areas to develop. # Aileen P. Refuerzo/PIO