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#BaguioandCordillera: Sustaining an effective traffic management
Hanna Lacsamana

URBAN WOES -- A traffic plan that works is what local government units in the Cordillera need. LGUs promoting their respective places as tourist destination should learn from the horrible experiences of Baguio City and La Trinidad, Benguet with traffic jams. -- HFP

 
The first thing that really made an impact when I had the chance to visit another country for the first time was actually not any of the sites that were planned for us to explore. Being a content and proud 19-year resident of Baguio City, the country’s Summer Capital where I share a tiny space with all the hundreds of thousands wanting a piece of its 57.49 square kilometers, I could not help but compare the two tourist cities. After a four-day tour of Hanoi, Vietnam courtesy of the Bright Leaf Agriculture Journalism Awards in February, I observed that our “beautiful Baguio” has everything that it takes to compete globally as a tourist destination.

Except for the way it manages the traffic. It strikes me that for a city of seven million people, not counting the tourists, a transport plan works and people simply comply. Given, the place has more than a thousand years on its back building the country’s second largest city, and Baguio has just a little more than a hundred years to address its concerns after American architect Daniel Burnham planned it and when it became a city in 1909.

When it comes to understanding a city (and all rising tourist destinations in the Cordillera as well), whose inhabitants started from an organized community that had a well planned setup and one that has opened its doors to progress, I believe tourists and visitors expect more – from the city’s officialdom and residents – than the typical justification, “traffic is a sign of progress so everything else must be prepared to sacrifice.” A tourist or a visitor – one who comes to appreciate sites or do business, who could only do so with a smooth flow of goods, people, and transport – has every reason to expect from their hosts a sustainable and effective traffic management that should translate to good hospitality and experience.

Hanoi, and for sure other tourist areas around the world, prove it could be done. In view of our having active, mindful, and participative citizens; local governments equally aware and able to do its mandate; and laws waiting to be implemented or upgraded, what we need is the will to come up with an effective and sustainable traffic management that rises above every change in leadership and any roadblock inevitably brought by progress.

#Hanoi: Prohibitive car ownership; Motorist and pedestrian-friendly roads

Having used to narrow roads crowded with taxi and jeepney units and private cars; terminals fitting in a small central business district; sidewalks narrowed by parked vehicles, ambulant vendors, business stall extensions or made non-existent by occasional road improvement projects; and pedestrian overpasses ill placed that one would prefer to jaywalk, it has been refreshing to motor and walk along Hanoi streets and sidewalks where some cars, some tourist buses, many bicycles, and around three million motorcycles/scooters cruise together without hitch.

Except for the flat lands, it is basically like Baguio – with below 20-degree temperature, bustling parks, markets, commercial buildings, and a lot of tourists blending with a considerable number of tourists. Like us, their terminals, pedestrian sidewalks, and crossings, traffic lights, and over and underpasses are identified. Their flyover facilities are rather new, with more planned to be built, according to tour guide Hung Nguyen.

In his four days of narrative of the place, Nguyen mentioned about pedestrians seemingly not a priority in the order of things in their traffic system, something which I thought could immediately set off a barrage of protests, in our terms. I gathered from the little time spent appreciating the place from the passenger seat and on ground walking, that for them streets are meant for vehicles and sidewalks and crossings for pedestrians. Simply put, cross where you are not supposed to or walk along the path of vehicles and you are on your own, and vice versa.

Having three million of its seven million residents driving their own motorcycle instead of riding public transportation just seems like a big headache.

The tour guide explained it is very difficult to own a car in Hanoi because of the high taxes imposed on car ownership, so only the really rich ones can afford it. He said imposing a 130 percent tax is its government’s way of limiting the number of vehicles and for the traffic not to go out of their roads’ capacity. While it resulted in the huge number of motorcycles on the streets that could potentially increase risks of air pollution, residents make sure their units are new or promptly updated or tended.

The 130-percent car tax policy and allowing millions of privately owned motorcycles seem to work for them. It would seem, as well, that the system is working better because people comply with the rules.

I know Baguio and other tourist places in the Cordillera can do and be so much more.

#BaguioCityandIfugao: Long-time issues and proposed solutions

Back home, we have long been confronted with the hustle and bustle typical of urban places, creating a messy traffic that has become a normal thing these days, leaving a community automatically shifting to beast mode that reaches its peak during Panagbenga Festival, long weekends; and Christmas, New Year, and summer breaks.

For Baguio City, traffic is a recurring cause of discontent that some residents lately have been opting to leave the city when the number of tourists and the ensuing traffic becomes unbearable.

It is also becoming a major concern among former sleepy towns of the region like La Trinidad in Benguet, Bontoc in Mountain Province, Banaue and Lagawe in Ifugao, and other places that have decided to exploit their tourism potentials to boost their economy.

Baguio City

In the “Next Generation Solutions for Clean Air and Sustainable Transport – Towards a Livable Society in Asia” conference held in November 2014 in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Baguio City Assistant City Environment and Parks Management Officer Ruben A. Cervantes, in a city draft report prepared as an input for the Special Event of Asian Mayors of the 8th Regional EST Forum in Asia, identified five major challenges and constraints Baguio has to consider in implementing its sustainable transport policies and measures. These are:

• Roads and traffic facilities (insufficient road networks, lack of traffic facilities at critical points; worsening traffic congestion, smoke pollution and pedestrian-motorist conflicts, road right of way constraints in alternate route developments, location of busy or crowd drawing establishments, lack of traffic enforcers especially in CBD, problems on law enforcement);

• Public transport (too many jeepneys and other vehicles on the road, too many existing public utility vehicle franchises, duplicated line of service routes, lack of off-street loading and unloading stations for PUVs, airport not fully operational);

• Motorization (rapid increase of motor vehicles, high volume of pedestrians);

• Sidewalk and parking (encroachment of vendors and businesses, uneven sidewalks due to uncoordinated design and layout, lack of parking spaces); and

• Lack of discipline (undisciplined drivers and pedestrians).

Based on the same report, the city is dealing with a total of 45,126 vehicles, as inspected, registered, and by registration, in 2012, and the data is believed to increase in the succeeding years. These ply 320.924 kilometers of road system.

According to city traffic consultant, retired general and former Baguio and Cordillera police director Villamor Bumanglag, these 45,000 vehicles are looking at 1,000 parking spaces identified in the city, attended to by four to six traffic enforcers. This is aside from the parking slots provided by private establishments like SM City Baguio and malls, restaurants, and hotels; but aside from the additional parking requirements when tourists come.

The city government entertained the idea of putting up a monorail transit system in the CBD to dissuade use of private vehicles and promote pedestrianization. Non-motorized transport (safe bicycle and pedestrian facilities) are also said to be integrated in the transport policy planning and development as integrated in the Comprehensive Land Use Plan of the city. The report has mentioned of the city government having implemented a “carless weekends” project as a prelude to total pedestrianization to reduce pollution and for physical wellness, but we have not yet seen it taking off, except for a weeklong closure of Session Road when it is in bloom during the annual Panagbenga Festival.

Among the programs under CLUP is the formulation of an environmentally sustainable transport plan for Baguio City, for which a committee was organized to spearhead the research and development for the eventual promulgation of a transport master plan.

In sum, the report carried the following strategies to attain targets for sustainable transport system as part of the 2012 CLUP in support of the Kyoto Declaration of 2007:

• Decongest the CBD. Identify growth nodes outside the CBD;

• Promotion of public transport, particularly mass transport, underlines Travel Demand Management inclination against private car usage;

• Promotion of walking and cycling as effective modes of transport;

• Provision of facilities for walking and cycling;

• Need for rationalized non-motorized public transport services;

• Education of road users, enforcement (and enactment) of regulations, as well as proper road/vehicle design and engineering;

• Efficient public transport system, traffic congestion management and good work-home matching;

• Designation of vehicle-free zones;

• Incorporate green architecture principles in the design of transportation infrastructure;

• Incorporate transport principles in transportation infrastructure and vehicle design;

• Promote effective, accessibility and efficient mobility for all (elderly, children, women, persons with disabilities, poor);

• Promote the use of green fuels or energy sources for vehicles;

• Promoting efficient use of idle lands;

• Coordination of implementing agencies in the implementation of projects;

• Improve, enhance enforcement of traffic rules and regulations;

• Promote mixed use development;

• Integration of environmentally sustainable transport in the CLUP preparation and other planning guidelines; and

• Traffic impact assessment as a requirement in zoning and rezoning applications for high impact projects (private and government).

Bumanglag said it is time to review the city’s Traffic Ordinance and other resolutions, orders, or regulations related to traffic management.  He said Ordinance 7-84 was very responsive at the time it was enacted in 1984, but it is no longer responsive to the city’s current traffic situation.

He proposes to revisit the law’s no parking provision, which is implemented in all city roads, except in some streets classified for regulated parking.

“Let us allow parking in the city’s major roads by identifying some wide portions of these roads that can allow parking and which will not disrupt the two-way purpose of the road,” he said.

“Many areas in the city where parking is not allowed are being parked on, anyway, despite the prohibition. And we observe that the flow of traffic, in fact, is not disrupted. So why can’t we already remove the no parking signs in feasible areas for parking, and penalize those will park beyond these areas?”

He added this will also eliminate the perception that traffic enforcers are not doing their job. He said it would be impossible for them to cover the entire city, since the number of city traffic enforcers is insufficient.

In the “Pulse Check: The Baguio we want, the Baguio they promised” candidates’ forum last February organized by the Diocese of Baguio, congressional candidate Mark Go said it is time to be serious about making the “Walk Baguio” movement work, by making sidewalks conducive to walking. He said with the current situation where there are no sidewalks or are obstructed by posts and other activities that get in the way of pedestrians, walking would be impossible. “Let’s create a condition where people can walk,” he said. 

Engineer and former congressman Bernardo Vergara agreed it is time to review the ordinance and amend provisions that are timely and well-needed, given the influx of motorists and pedestrians using the city’s road networks.

He said he can provide leadership support towards the desired goal of addressing present-day traffic problems, and even give funding support to engineering interventions (diversion and bypass roads, time-based traffic light systems, sidewalk development) to help ease the congestion on the road and funding assistance for discipline-based initiatives that stakeholders can enforce at the local level.

He reiterated the need for discipline on the road by all sectors using public conveyance, citing the four Es in traffic management must be re-instilled on motorists and pedestrians alike: engineering, education, enforcement, and environment.

Candidates for mayor said the problem is both simple and complicated. Atty. Jose Molintas opined solving Baguio’s traffic problem seems impossible that no amount of regulating the number of vehicles overcrowding in the city seems possible. But the solution is the Baguio, La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, Tuba, and Tublay program. “We need to have people dispersed, expand territories, and move people around.”

Businessman Guillermo Hernandez said the city should have a system that will decrease the volume of vehicles and people should have discipline and make them follow the city ordinance on traffic. If they will not, fine them.

Incumbent Mayor Mauricio Domogan said residents should continue to improve on their discipline, construct parking buildings in the central business district, continue supporting the metro BLISTT, and pursue the completion of the circumferential road.

Retired judge Edilberto Claravall said there must be a short, medium, and long range solution, because it is very difficult to change the setup of the city. He said there is a need rationalize parking stations, as in jeepney and taxi units, which maintain terminals and have certain loading and unloading areas within the CBD, and explore possibility of situating them in the barangays.

Ifugao

In Banaue, Ifugao’s capital town that hosts along with three other towns the world renowned rice terraces, Ifugaos’ product of ingenuity and industry, Gov. Denis Habawel acknowledged that the tourist situation has become critical because of very short, narrow, and substandard road network. Years of word of mouth and active community and government promotion has led to tourist influx and increase in business activities in the area. Therefore, Habawel said the problem is now how to accommodate visitors when they come, bringing with them their own vehicles, given the town’s current limitations.

The municipal government has recently started constructing a seven-story parking building, but it has met a roadblock when private individuals opposed the project, and they were backed by the International Council on Monuments and Sites, the watchdog of Unesco for heritage and protection. They claim it destroys Banaue and the rice terraces’ outstanding universal value. Parking building advocates, on the other hand, argue that as per world heritage site rules, the area where the parking facility is being built is not part of the world heritage site, which cover Batad and Bangaan in Banaue, Mayoyao, Nagacadan in Kiangan, and Hungduan. A case is pending in court.

The parking building project is viewed as crucial in solving traffic and lack of parking space in the area, considering that Banaue’s existing ordinance has a no-parking provision that is difficult to implement, because there is just no space available for the increasing number of private and public vehicles.

Habawel added they are on the process of creating a tourism master plan, precisely because of what happened in Kabuyao, Tuba, Benguet, which was eventually temporarily closed to tourists and now a subject of a pending case in court, when vehicular and human traffic went out of control aside from business and tourist activities having encroached upon the forest reserve.

“Before we even try to develop our tourism potentials, a master plan has to be in place. We have to think first that Ifugao and its people are a living culture. We are not a museum piece. If we will not have a plan, the entire thing will be destroyed,” he said.

Along with Unesco, the master plan is being conceptualized. Workshops have been conducted to gather inputs. Habawel said they are now on the process of identifying specific tourist destinations and planning the activities to be allowed, its holding capacity, and possible resources to be utilized.

Funding requirements will have to be decided as well, as he emphasized local sources will be prioritized in investing on tourist facilities and services, where Ifugao culture and tradition will be its main showcase.

#Whatwewant

The coming May 9 elections could be a most interesting occasion both in the local and national front if challenges posed by still unresolved problems and the inability to implement long planned solutions will finally be overcome, so that plans that result from a government and strategies that work and constituents that cooperate will be realized.
Other news
:: This conundrum called Cordillera autonomy
:: Our current language ‘barriers’ – any takers?
:: Advocating PWD rights, one jeepney ride at a time
:: Why cultural heritage needs to be preserved
:: The politics in garbage
:: Locating the youth in political platforms today
:: Protecting and preserving eco-tourism sites in the Cordillera
:: Political will key to saving Baguio’ last ecological frontiers
:: Poverty reduction as primary election agenda in Cordillera
:: CAR leaders as champions of Disaster Risk Reduction
:: Know more about your presidential and vice presidential candidates

Baguio Country Club
Cordillera Career Development College
Department of Tourism – CAR
Department of Trade and Industry – CAR
Informatics Institute
Medline International Training Institute

Baguio Central University
Baguio Multicultural Institute
Department of Agriculture – CAR
Department of Health – CAR
Department of Tourism – CAR
Fox Elite Immigration Consultancy
King’s College of the Philippines
Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan
Philippine Veterans Bank
Philippine Women’s University – Baguio
Pines City Colleges
Regional Development Council & National Economic Development Authority – CAR
Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Benguet
SiTEL
Sutherland Global Services
University of Baguio

Assumption Medical Diagnostic Center
Baguio Center Mall
Baguio Heart and Lung Diagnostic Center, Inc.
Baguio Water District
Banco De Oro
Barangay 92.7 FM
Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources – CAR
C & Triple A Supermart
Congressman Ronald M. Cosalan
Cordillera Kidney Specialists, Inc.
Department of Environment and Natural Resources – CAR
Department of Public Works and Highways – CAR
Department of Science and Technology – CAR
Department of Trade and Industry – CAR
Fabulo Beauty and Image Salon
Far East Pacific Commercial
John Hay Management Corporation
Maybank
Mother Earth Deli Basket
Nagomi Spa
NIIT
Overseas Workers Welfare Administration
Philex Mining Corporation
Philippine National Police – Police Regional Office – Cordillera
Pines International Academy Inc.
Pugad: Pugo Adventure
Rianella Printing Press
Social Security System

 



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