Mall defense team bares witnesses list-A A +A
By JM Agreda
Thursday, September 20, 2012
SM BAGUIO is ready to refute all allegations against them in court as petitioners who opposed the mall’s expansion project fielded their last witnesses on August 29.
ACCRA lawyer Chrysilla Carissa Bautista, delegated spokesperson of SM City Baguio on the environmental case, revealed they are fielding 11 witnesses as part of their defense at Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 6 under Judge Antonio Esteves after the final presentation of evidence by prosecution lawyers and petitioners led by the Cordillera Green Network.
Bautista said their witnesses will take the stand starting September 25 and will testify to the step by step the regulations followed by the mall prior to the conduct of the mall expansion.
These include obtaining clearances from host barangays, location clearances such as building and zoning permits issued by the City Government and the amended Environmental Compliance Certificate issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Their first witness, SM Supermalls vice president for Operations Engr. Bien Mateo, will explain the mall chain’s objectives in pursuing the mall expansion including processes followed and permits obtained prior to the project.
SM Baguio mall manager Mark Jansen Pe said the mall expansion project will take one and a half to two years and will accommodate more retail shops and parking spaces.
The mall expansion project also highlights a Sky Garden, energy saving lighting in its parking spaces and a rain water reservoir aimed at addressing soil erosion in Luneta Hill.
Bautista said they will present their witnesses on separate hearing schedules until October to include DENR - Environmental Management Bureau officers Nestor Donaal and Imelda Maloy.
City Building and Architecture Officer Engr. Oscar Flores and consultants hired by SM to ensure all environmental and safety precautions were on served will also be presented as witnesses in the case that has caused uproar in social networking sites and ignited several street protests in the city since January.
Bautista said they will also formally present permits and documents obtained from several government agencies, including the Environmental Performance Report Management Plan and a resolution from the host barangay backing the mall expansion project.
The defense lawyer said the mall management respects the opinion of plaintiffs as long as opinions made regarding the mall expansion project are within the confines of the law as several petitioners continue to bombard social networking sites Facebook and Twitter with petitions.
“As far as SM is concerned, it has already complied with all requirements, actually it is more of ‘over compliance’ as some of the things done by SM are not even required by the DENR,” she said.
Bautista explained this was even detailed by Environmental Management Bureau director Juan Miguel Cuna in the August 29 hearing saying the mall chain need not conduct public consultations.
Despite this, SM still conducted a people perception survey, secured a resolution from the host barangay, interviewed key people from nearby establishments and obtained an endorsement from Mayor Mauricio Domogan.
The defense team is confident the case will be over by November.
Pe, meanwhile, said business remains unaffected by past protests initiated by the Save 182 movement in terms of earnings of their tenants.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on September 21, 2012.