Statement of the Tongtongan ti Umili-Cordillera Peoples Alliance
on the Expansion of Shoe Mart Development Corporation (SMDC)
in Baguio City
The Tongtongan ti Umili-Cordillera Peoples Alliance iterates its unity and solidarity with the people of Baguio in the call for a stop to the expansion of SM mega mall and the cutting (“earthballing”) of 182 mature trees for such to happen. To stand for these trees is to stand for Kafagway, for the old Baguiopine-clad and fog-hugged, a community of humble, talented and hardworking people, and ancestral land to the original Ibaloi families and clans that inhabited it.
Over the years, Baguio has changed in many, many ways. Development has taken its toll, to build it as it is now: an educational center, a business hub, a tourist destination, a nook for various artists, writers and musicians. Progress is good, and let us be clear that TTU-CPA has always been for development, as long it favors the people of Baguio, not only a few big business and corrupt officials. It is at this juncture that we raise questions on SMDC, which rests on Luneta Hill and is hell-bent on expansion.
Is SM a favored business in Baguio?
The property targeted for SM’s expansion was purchased by the SM Group as early as 1992, in a public bidding conducted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). Recent media reports even reveal that President Benigno Aquino III has approved the sale of Luneta Hill, which is government property, to the SM Group for only a quarter of its current value of P1.9 billionclearly under-priced. This brings us to ask who were seated in the City Council at that time. Luneta Hill was expropriated by government for the City, and should be used only to the advantage of the people of Baguio.
As the seat of government in Baguio, the City Council is responsible for the progress of local and homegrown businesses. Bringing in 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?
Is SM gearing for all the business?
SM’s proposed plan for a multi-level parking area seven storeys high suggests it may be gearing for grand expansion to monopolize the business. This also raises the question of the City’s carrying capacity to hold infrastructure and people in one area at a time, on Luneta Hill. If SM does proceed with its expansion, it will require more water, more energy, more land for its operations and also generate more garbage, more sewage. What impact does this have on the people of Baguio, long experiencing water crisis? Garbage crisis? Overflowing sewage?
These are basic questions to start with, if we wish to save the remaining frontiers of Baguio City from corporate greed. Somewhere, the City Council has an accountability that must be made known to Baguio’s citizenry.
We urge the City Council to investigate these immediate concerns.
We call on the people of Baguio to sustain their protest, and raise their unity for this cause. Remember our victories in earlier days against the casino, the Bulk Water Supply Project, the privatization of John Hay, the desecration of culture in the grand cañao, where our unity and credibility prevailed. We shall overcome. #
STOP SM Expansion!
STOP the Cutting or Earthballing of Trees in the City of Baguio!
NO to Corporate Greed!
SAVE OUR ENVIRONMENT!
DEVELOPMENT FOR THE MASSES NOT FORTHE FEW!
Tongtongan ti Umili - Cordillera Peoples Alliance
(a national democratic movement and an alliance of progressive organizations and individuals in Metro-Baguio. Tongtongan ti Umili is the Cordillera Peoples Alliance chapter in Baguio City)