SC halts cutting, balling of trees in Baguio mall's expansion

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 10) - The Supreme Court on Wednesday stopped the cutting and balling of trees in expansion plans of a popular mall in Baguio City until it complies with environmental requirements.

"The Supreme Court in its En Banc Session today made permanent the temporary restraining order issued on 24 March 2015 prohibiting the cutting and balling of the trees on Luneta Hill in Baguio City, where SM is expanding its shopping mall," the Supreme Court said in an order read by its spokesperson Brian Hoska.

It added, "This is without prejudice to the filing of another application for an environmental compliance certificate in accordance with existing laws and regulations."

SM, in response, said it has not yet received the court resolution.

"SM will assure that developments of the SM Pines Resort Project are covered by the appropriate Environmental Compliance Certificate," SM said in a statement.

The company's plans to expand the mall sparked protests from Baguio City residents and environmentalists in 2012 because it required the uprooting of trees to give way to the construction.

The Cordillera region has among the largest remaining forest covers in the country.

In February, the environment department said it was considering the rehabilitation of Baguio, the country's summer capital, similar to what is being done on Boracay Island and Manila Bay.

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said he was also looking into restricting building construction on the city slopes and suspending the release of building permits.