July 13, 2024

The recent action of the city council allowing the conduct of a trade fair at Burnham Park to raise funds for the repair of a dysfunctional fountain and acquisition of roses for the Rose Garden is a move that will further open the floodgates for groups and institutions to use portions of parks and roads to earn money.
At the same time, it also shows how the office that is supposed to be at the forefront of coming up with environmental programs for parks, among its other responsibilities, seems to have forgotten its mandate.
Amidst public criticisms on the previously approved trade fairs at Burnham Park, the city council opted to approve anew the holding of a 15-day trade fair at the Juan Luna Drive, a move seen by many quarters as a violation of the Trade Fair Ordinance.
In the guise of co-sponsorship by the city government, the City Environment and Parks Management Office has endorsed the holding of the trade fair, saying previous activities, such as the conduct of the market encounter component of the annual Baguio Flower Festival, were also allowed.
The 10 councilors who voted in favor of the conduct of the trade fair seem to have forgotten or may have not realized the activity they endorsed is not being done in conjunction with any city government-initiated event in May to warrant an exemption from the Trade Fair Ordinance.
Unlike the Flower Festival, the trade fair sought to be held at Juan Luna Drive is not an institutionalized activity of the city government.
The reason for the trade fair is to raise funds for the repair of the fountain at Rose Garden, which has not served its purpose and a pathetic exchange deal in which the organizer is required to donate 10,000 pots of roses.
In allowing the Juan Luna Drive for the trade fair, the councilors who voted in favor of the activity have set a precedent and gave other groups an idea to seek their endorsement for similar undertakings in the future.
The council needs to be reminded of the maxim that streets and parks are beyond the commerce of men. This has been the city government’s reason in being so strict against sidewalk vending. On a larger scale, is this also not the reason why the government is implementing the anti-road obstruction that has already deprived a lot of their sources of livelihood?
The danger with the city council not seeing anything wrong in allowing the trade fair at the Juan Luna Drive is that, nothing will stop the legislative body from accepting proposals to hold trade fairs in parks and roads, anytime of the year.
Concerned City Hall offices like the Cepmo should also be careful in endorsing the conduct of trade fairs in public streets and parks in the guise of city government co-sponsorship as this might be putting the city at a disadvantaged position.
Let us remember that in the previous years, groups and institutions that wanted to use the Baguio Convention Center have been seeking exemption from paying amusement taxes by simply stating the events they are holding in the facility is co-sponsored by the city government. In return, the fees were not enough to maintain the facility.
Endorsing trade fairs in the guise of co-sponsorship will not do the city government any good. Even raising funds to maintain a facility is not a reason to keep violating an ordinance.
The latest city council action leaves us thinking whether we are a city governed by laws or a city governed by people who circumvent laws to accommodate the few.
We hope we still belong to the former, especially since we recently saw the passage of an ordinance that declared Baguio City a character city.