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The need for a legislative response to the BLISTT framework
by Jane B. Cadalig

Years after the blueprint of the Baguio-La Trinidad-Itogon-Sablan-Tublay-Tuba (BLISTT) development framework was crafted, the city earned the impression that it wants the concept to materialize only for its benefit.

Why not? Among the six local government units that comprise the proposed development areas, it is Baguio that needs  BLISTT the most. The reason: The city needs to decongest.

The BLIST development plan was a welcome development  when it was introduced more than 20 years ago, because its main intention was to spread what Baguio was enjoying, as an urban center, to its neighboring rural areas.

But as talks on how to make the concept work progressed, impressions gradually changed – mostly negatively.

Over the years, some officials and other stakeholders in the LISTT – except Tublay, which has remained positive about the concept since it became a member in 2009 – have become apprehensive of the plan. The notion that Baguio is only interested in the BLISST because it needs the nearby Benguet towns to be its sources of water and to host its dumpsite, among other things, cropped up.

Legislative backing

Apart from the need for the city to initiate measures that will convince stakeholders from the LISTT areas that the concept is not Baguio-centered, the more pressing need is to make it work now.

Councilor Faustino Olowan, who is among the city council members who has been consistent in recognizing the need to achieve the goals of the BLISTT concept, said the plan needs a legislative backbone to finally make it work.

He said the absence of a body that can serve as the administrator, or one that will lay the policies for the BLISTT, has kept the concept in its blueprint stage.

“The BLISTT concept needs political structure, for it to work,” he said. The creation of a BLISTT Commission, for example, could be a concrete move towards this, Olowan said, echoing what the BLISTT planners and advocates have been reiterating – the adoption of a scheme similar to that of the Metro Manila Development Authority.

Without such body, all the plans agreed upon by the local leaders and the stakeholders will not move.

“But if we have to adopt the MMDA structure, we will now need the legislators of Baguio and Benguet to initiate the move. They have to talk and see how they, as legislators, can make the BLISTT concept a reality. Besides, this should have been among the long-term plans in realizing the BLISTT.”

The creation of a body to oversee or administer the BLISTT will also address the problem on the constantly changing leadership, which is considered more of a challenge than an opportunity, given the varied priorities of each politician.

Pending a metro-BLISTT creation

In the meantime that the political structure for the BLISTT is yet to be created or pending the passage of a law to this effect, Olowan said there is a need to cure the apprehensions of the LISTT areas.

“There is a need for confidence-building among the leaders and stakeholders in the LISTT, with Baguio taking the lead,” Olowan said.

Being the most progressive area in the BLISTT, the city can continue reaching out to its neighbors and as the lead LGU, must be willing to share its resources in any BLISTT-related programs, he said.

“If Baguio needs to allocate, even just a minimal portion of our annual budget, to any BLISTT-related programs, then let us do so. That is part of earning the trust of our neighboring Benguet towns.”

Another basic, yet more practical approach in earning the trust of the LISTT, is to make Benguet’s tourist destinations part of Baguio’s tourism promotion menu.

“Let us include the Benguet towns in the menu of tourist areas as we promote Baguio as a prime tourism destination.”

Apart from tourism, he said Baguio City should help encourage investors to consider the LISTT areas as sites for their business undertakings.

Tourism development is one of the key structure proposals in the 1994 BLIST Urban Master Plan, along with population, land, housing, infrastructure, education, and natural hazards.
Among these development areas, infrastructure has so far the only aspect that yielded a concrete result – in the ongoing construction of the circumferential road that connects Baguio, La Trinidad, and Tuba.

Yet it should not end there.

Olowan said the construction of more road linkages or “sub-circumferential” roads must not be by-passed.

Baguio’s BLISTT-related legislations

In terms of legislation, what has Baguio done so far, to support the BLISTT concept or help realize its intention?

A browse of the legislative archives at the Sangguniang Panlungsod Research Division yielded various measures relative to the plan, albeit majority are in the form of resolutions.

In 1996, the city council passed a resolution that adopted the then BLIST (Tublay was not yet included that time) Development Master Plan as “one of the frames of reference in the formulation and development plans of the city.”

A further dig into the legislative archives, however, provided negligible number of legislations to this effect.

In 1999, the council adopted the resolution that considered the possibility of putting up a mass transportation system for the BLIST. The original proponent of that resolution, which asked the Department of Transportation and Communication to form a group to study such proposal, was the BLIST Area Task Force.

Earlier in 1997, the city council asked the mayor to prepare a memorandum of agreement to address the problem on solid waste disposal in the BLIST. Worth-noting is the fact that the move came about before Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act became a law in 2000.

In 2000, the city again adopted two resolutions of the BLIST Area Task Force – one that called for a BLIST-wide water supply project and another that asked the LIST LGUs to support the bulk water supply project of the Baguio Water District. The latter measure asked the LIST areas to be the sources of water, based on an agreed sharing scheme.

Unfortunately, not one of these plans materialized.

Even the proposed updated comprehensive land use plan has yet to come up with a concrete response to the expansion plans in the LISTT.

All these, among other things, contributed to the perception that the BLISTT was crafted only to further the development of the city more than the towns intended to benefit from the plan.

Also, it did not help that leadership among the BLISTT is constantly changing. Some chief executives may have retained their posts, but this does not apply to the six local government units working together in pursuit of the BLISTT development plan. The result: Deadlock on whatever positive consensus or initiative that was started. Talks begin every three years, and the cycle continues.

The need for continuing talks

No matter how good the intentions of Baguio are in realizing the BLISTT, all these will be for naught if the concerned Benguet LGUs are not informed about it.

“It’s useless to be coming out with plans without involving the LGUs in the BLISTT. Lack of consultations is one of the reasons most proposals fail because the concerned areas are often by-passed. The result: There is no commonality of plans and actions,” Olowan said.

He added making the LISTT LGUs aware of any plans the city has is a way of gaining the concerned LGUs’ trust.

“It does not help that we will only inform them of our plans once these are already crafted. We need to get their sentiments first before we even consider or start a plan.”

Joint executive and legislative efforts

The meeting of minds in the BLISTT concept is often confined with the executive leaders or the mayors coming from the six concerned LGUs, although the region’s policy-making body – the Regional Development Council, and other agencies – are now among those involved in the discussions.

Olowan said there is a need for the legislative departments to complement what the mayors and the government agencies are doing in pursuit of the BLISTT implementation.

He added the legislative branch, at least in the local level, should also take the lead or be part in the BLISTT development process, but the direction should be geared towards the realization of one goal – the eventual realization of the long-delayed BLISTT urban development plan. “The Councilor’s League should also start talking about this.”

As to the creation of an MMDA-like structure for the  metro-BLISTT, Olowan said the action must be done now.

“Its creation will get everything started,” he said.
Other news
:: Random thoughts on BLISTT
:: The BLISTT: As some others see it
:: Why BLISTT?
:: Beyond Boundaries: Realizing the potentials of a public-private partnership in BLISTT
:: Do we need a big brother in BLISTT?
:: Andebok, a foundational site in Baguio’s political history
:: BSU’s role in the development of BLISTT
:: BLISTT: Transforming distrust to mutual cooperation
:: Local resources, global directions in the service of the CICM Mission
:: Making BLISTT work

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