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Making BLISTT work
by Hanna C. Lacsamana

TWENTY-THREE years ago, the framework that would make Baguio City, La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, Tuba, and later Tublay, allies, instead of competitors, was laid on the drawing board, and on the drawing board it lies until now. It will not be unexpected if few have the optimism it will materialize, in view of the laid-back pace it has been taking to date. Will a metropolitan BLISTT ever happen? Or are the non-believers justified in thinking it will only be for Baguio City’s benefit?

If what the current crop of Baguio and Benguet leaders says is to be believed, having the BLISTT framework finally in action may be worth the wait.

If successful, the BLISTT framework ought to be the best testament of sustainable development and prosperity for all BLISTT areas, achieved through people empowerment, spreading of opportunities, and distribution of resources. It should not be about considering one area a kingdom and the rest underlings, but about having equal, independent local government units with each of them capitalizing on the strong points or the best each of the involved localities can offer in order to advance as a united metropolis.

If somewhere, working singlehandedly towards progress may still work, it might no longer be for Baguio City, at least if luxury of space and resources are considered. True, Benguet’s lone city had proven in the past it can triumphantly rise out of a debilitating earthquake, carve a name in the tourism map, and at present keen on winning back the glory it once enjoyed. But as early as 23 years ago, the need to go BLISTT has already been hinted to address over-expansion, suggesting that the now 104-year old city needs as much support it can win from its neighbors to be able to move forward, with La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, Tuba, and Tublay getting equitable share in the development.

Showing BLISTT signs
 
In terms of impact to business, education, tourism, real estate, housing, and employment, to name a few, confidence is high that implementing the BLISTT framework will do well for neighboring Benguet towns and city.

Pending the approval of a master plan, some actions point to a BLISTT attitude, as manifested for instance by La Trinidad’s agreement to let Baguio use a portion of the town for the latter’s use as a temporary garbage transfer area. “It is the essence of being a BLISTT. We help if we can, as long as policies and requirements are followed,” Mayor Edna Tabanda said.

Producers, not only from Benguet towns, but also from other parts of Cordillera find an ally in Baguio for providing a market for their goods. Investors are now venturing in the LISTT areas because of their proximity to Baguio. Tuba and Sablan are potential university towns and may help decongest Baguio, in return spur business opportunities in these towns by providing for the students’ necessities. Itogon and Tublay are areas to be reckoned with, with their promising eco-tourism industries – many just waiting to be discovered and could offer refreshing change from tourist spots found in the city.

Councilor Elaine Sembrano, chair of city council committee of market, trade, and commerce, believes the BLISTT concept is the only way to develop these areas, which she said have its own attributes. “For example, tourist spots and existing developments are given for Baguio. When it comes to subdivisions, we can say for instance it can be handled by Tuba. When it comes to agri, ibaga tayo forte ‘yan ng La Trinidad, and the like. Kumbaga, kanya-kanya ng specialization. You have to go out na eh, wala na, congested na ang city,” Sembrano said.

In order for the BLISTT plan to take off, Sembrano said somebody should take the lead.

“Ano ba ang plano natin para sa ating mga lugar? Officials should talk about the proposals of each town. It’s high time para mag-usap-usap tayo, dahil dumadami na ang tao. What are we going to do? Every three years, napapalitan ang opisyales. Let us come up with a serious program, implement it, and make it something the next officials may use as their stepping stone.”

Sembrano believes all it takes is somebody who is willing to take the risk, as in business venture. She said one who wants to expand his business but has no longer a space in the city has the option to explore nearby areas. Once there, chances are that area will be developed, people will come, and it is highly probable other businesses will follow suit. “It is not impossible that Tuba or Itogon, for that matter, may become another Baguio City.”

BLISTT from a businessman’s perspective

Anthony de Leon, general manager of the Baguio Country Club and chair of the Hotels and Restaurants Association of Baguio, said the BLISTT concept  “is about regional development that focuses on strengthening the economic capacity of a regional community to make optimal use of the existing and potential characteristics and resources of the area that provides and sets the strategies, tools, and approaches to improve conditions for business and enterprise growth and development, through effective urban planning, sustainable development planning, job creation, and economic growth.”

He said BLISTT provides the opportunity to identify challenges and opportunities for strengthening the industries, local economy, and job creation, together with stakeholders at local, regional, and national level; develop approaches for strategic local economic planning; and get acquainted with practical tools to support the local economy.

De Leon considers the plan a good idea and it is workable for the following reasons:

• It will give the BLISTT areas the opportunity to develop and implement a vision for the area together with government, citizens, businesses, and the communities;

• It will anchor efforts toward securing local interests vis-a-vis national government’s platform for inclusive growth;

• It can provide opportunities for local and foreign investors;

• It creates avenue of opportunities for several industries and support for tourism, agriculture, trade, education, extractive industries, and small businesses; and

• It will facilitate in creating job opportunities, improve regional food security, and strengthen the region’s position in dealing with challenges like urban sprawl, informal settlement, urban planning and development, comprehensive land use, waste management, resource management, environmental protection, food security, health and safety, and peace and order.

Moreover, de Leon said BLISTT opens the region for better development planning that requires medium and long-term plans, assessment and prioritization of development plans for the region, investment programming and coordination, and implementation.

He said it can formulate and implement regional policies for transport and traffic management, solid waste disposal and management, flood control and sewerage management, public safety and disaster-preparedness, urban renewal, zoning and land use planning, and shelter services.

“By formulating, adopting, and implementing policies, programs, and projects to rationalize and optimize land use and provide direction to urban growth and expansion, it can collectively address the issue on ancestral land titles, informal settlement, and environmental protection for the region.

“Through BLISTT, regional issues regarding health and sanitation, urban protection and pollution control can be addressed collectively and aid the promotion and safeguarding of the health and sanitation of the region and for the enhancement of ecological balance and the prevention, control, and abatement of environmental pollution,” de Leon said.

He said the role of the business sector towards BLISTT cooperation begins after the local government units have set the seeds towards this endeavor.

“A strong leadership and political will of our local government in the region to anchor its efforts towards regional development sets the ground for other sectors to follow and cooperate. To succeed in regional development, you will need to involve all stakeholders in the planning, control and implementation of the programs, policies and projects.”

De Leon believes the reason BLISTT had failed in the past is because it had been allowed previously to remain a concept and remained at the backburner. He said the belief that only Baguio will benefit under this framework is not only myopic but has become one of the obstacles why it never took off.

“It is time for us to gravitate away from this myopia and move towards translating this concept into a successful business/economic model for other regions to emulate.”

“The region needs a strong strategic development framework. It is time to move past prejudices and think regional. Think global. Regional policies, without doubt, help regional economy and the stakeholders. It aids better development planning, it helps increase employment and income in the other regions, encouraging self-sustaining growth based on the mobilization of local resources and inter-dependencies unlock the “wealth of regions” as the prime source of development and renewal.”

De Leon said BLISTT “sets a stage for policy actions designed to strengthen networks of association, instead of actions, which focus on individual municipalities, cities and provinces. Within a frame of plural and autonomous governance, the role of BLISTT Development Council, as the prime collective organization with societal reach and legal power, should be that of providing resources, arbitrating between decentralized authorities, securing collective results, and, above all, establishing the strategic goal, aside from that of being the central planner or market facilitator.”

To help make the plan work, de Leon suggested the business sector can help identify the major constraints to business growth. They then work with government and other stakeholders to implement reforms.

“Each member of the business sector is a member of a bigger cluster that envisions long-term and sustainable success. The development and upgrading of clusters is an important agenda for governments, companies, and other institutions. Cluster development initiatives are an important new direction in economic policy, building on earlier efforts in macroeconomic stabilization, privatization, market opening, and reducing the costs of doing business.

He added the involvement of the business sector is important in aiming for policy action that encourages voice and negotiation in order to secure BLISTT’s strategic vision.

“Enterprise support systems that include the participation and commitment of the business sector to build business towards inclusive growth in its exercise of social citizenship is essential in delivering and reaping the rewards of BLISTT development. Regional integration as a catalyst for increasing trade, market expansion, and growth, as well and enterprise competitiveness and competition is going to be an exciting prospect for the business community.”

BLISTT a priority

The May 14 midterm elections also saw renewed action towards the realization of the BLISTT plan, with Benguet and Baguio officials again warming up the drawing table. Talks between new Baguio Rep. Nicasio Aliping Jr. and Benguet Rep. Ronald Cosalan included giving priority to the BLISTT, and the BLISTT mayors and stakeholders, with the Regional Development Council at the helm, revisited the plan last year and continue to meet up until recently.

Confident the plan will work out, Aliping mentioned some factors crucial to the success of BLISTT.

First, they need to clear the basis of the BLISTT concept in order to come up with a framework that incorporates all BLISTT areas and correct the notion of a “Metro Baguio” objective. He said the setup is comparable with that of the Metro Manila Development Authority, and with the aim of integrating all concerned municipalities.

Aliping said he and Cosalan are working together in researching the appropriate basis of establishment of the BLISTT.

“Will it be an administrative order, a memorandum of agreement, a Presidential act, or act of Congress?” he said.

While this is being studied, Aliping believes it may well be created either through a presidential or congressional act to give the framework weight so whatever projects undertaken by the authority will be respected by the different LGUs involved. 

Aliping said another feature vital to the BLISTT plan is the appointment of a manager that will serve for a particular period. “This manager should be appointed so that he or she could perform the tasks without being at the mercy of local officials,” he said.

This time, Aliping said the frontliners are receptive, particularly Gov. Nestor Fongwan and the BLISTT mayors.
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
:: The need for a legislative response to the BLISTT framework
:: 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

Department of Social Welfare and Development
SiTEL
University of Baguio

Baguio Central University
Baguio City Council
Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company
Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan
MMS Development Traning Center Corporation
National Grid Corporation of the Philippines
Philex Mining Corporation
Pines City Colleges
Sangguniang Panlalawigan – Province of Benguet
Skycable
Sutherland Global Services
The Office of Civil Defense – Cordillera
TI (Philippines), Inc.
University of the Cordilleras
University of the Philippines – Baguio

Ahead Tutorial and Review
Assumption Medical Diagnostic Center, Inc.
Baguio City Police Office
Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center
Baguio Heart and Lung Diagnostic Center, Inc.
Baguio Memorial Chapels, Inc.
Baguio Water District
Benguet State University
BSBT College, Inc.
Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources
Bureau of Internal Revenue – CAR
Bureau of Jail Management and Penology – CAR
Citylight Hotel
Commission on Higher Education – CAR
Congressman Maximo B. Dalog
Congressman Ronald M. Cosalan
Crown Legacy Hotel
Department of Agrarian Reform – CAR
Department of Agriculture – CAR
Department of Education – CAR
Department of Environment and Natural Resources – CAR
Department of Interior and Local Government
Department of Science and Technology
Department of Tourism
Department of Trade and Industry
Easter College
Fabulo Beauty and Image Salon
Far East Pacific Commerical
Filipino–Japanese Foundation of Northern Luzon, Inc.
Fortune (Hong Kong) Seafood Restaurant
Fox International Immigration and Visa Provider
GMS Technology
Governor Leonard G. Mayaen
Governor Nestor B. Fongwan
Hotel Elizabeth
Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board – Northern Luzon Region
Kalapaw Restaurant
La Funeraria Paz, Inc.
Le Conservatoire De Danse De Ballet
Mother Earth Deli Basket
Municipality of La Trinidad
Overseas Workers Welfare Administration – CAR
Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company
Regional Development Council – CAR and National Economic and Development Authority – CAR
Technical Education and Skills Development Authority – CAR
WINACA / Narda’s

 



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