April 23, 2024

As Baguio City marked its 114th Charter Day on Sept. 1, Mayor Benjamin Magalong appealed to the constituents to acknowledge and continue to learn from the important events of the past which form part of the city’s path towards development.

In his State of the City Address, Magalong said the city’s development goals continue to be anchored on good governance and this administration’s seven-point agenda on environment, land use, and energy; climate and disaster resilience; urban regeneration; empowering the youth; economic recovery and development; smart city management; and good governance.

But early this year the city had to address the Baguio City public market fire where 1,565 stalls were destroyed resulting in P24 million damage and the effects of Typhoon Egay when it hit the city in July and caused widespread power outages, disrupted communications, and left 610 families and 2,563 residents displaced with an estimated cost of over P18M damage.

In both events, Magalong cited the admirable response of local authorities, rescue teams, and volunteers as epitome of collective action.

In his report on environment, land use, and energy, the mayor reported their Green and Blue Walks Project initiative aims to foster an eco-friendly and pedestrian-friendly urban environment.

He said the forthcoming updated Comprehensive Development and Land Use Plans shall serve as the strategic blueprint that will guide the city’s efforts in urban development. This includes a comprehensive review of the height limits of buildings “to ensure decisions are science-based and not politically motivated.”

The city is also waiting for the approval of the funding for the rehabilitation of Ibaloy Park aimed at honoring and celebrating Baguio’s cultural heritage; as well as the completion of the reflecting pool at Upper Wright Park and the Post Office Park along Session Road.

The city government is also working closely with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) for the low carbon urban transport system project with a focus on implementing eco-friendly and energy-efficient modes of transport.

Also with UNDP, the city is working with its youth in the “Streets for Children” project where children would be designing the streets they use.

On climate and disaster resilience, the city held its first Climate Change Summit which served as a directive that motivates stakeholders to implement climate change programs and projects.

Magalong said they are also working with the Asian Development Bank and Ramboll, a global engineering, architecture, and consultancy company, in developing the city’s flood early warning system that was kicked off early this year.

“With the growing risk of severe flooding and landslides, this system will guide the city’s appropriate and immediate response to the shocks and stresses brought about by multiple hazards and disasters,” he said.

The establishment of the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Division as a full-fledged department through Ordinance 60, s. 2022 underscores the city’s dedication to prioritizing risk assessment, disaster preparedness, and response; and targeting its approach to climate-related challenges.

The city has also received a three-year grant from the National DRRM Council for its resilience building to capacitate the city’s risk reduction initiatives since the city has high vulnerabilities.

On urban regeneration, the city inaugurated the Aurora Hill Health Center followed by the groundbreaking for the Atab super health center.

Magalong reported they are planning for six new growth nodes to help decongest the city’s central business district.

To push equity through barangay development, satellite markets with a total cost of P13.6 million at West Bayan Park, Middle Quezon Hill, San Vicente, and Dominican-Mirador have been fully implemented; while the West Quirino Hill multipurpose barangay was inaugurated in September 2022 and the Irisan barangay hall is 90 percent complete. Improvements and endorsements of other barangays are also underway.

The city has also endorsed to the National Commission for Culture and Arts the first volume of the cultural mapping book that identifies cultural properties in the city and is now completing the second book to raise awareness about the importance of safeguarding living heritage, both tangible and intangible.

He reported the Luna Terraces Socialized Housing and Permaculture Community is halfway done, broke ground for the Topinao Housing Project, and the halfway home for rebel returnees is 54 percent accomplished.

On empowering the city’s more than 75,000 youth, Magalong said the Local Youth Development Council has been active in creating policies and implementing youth development programs, projects, and activities.

One of which is the signing of an agreement with the Local Governments for Sustainability and Swiss Philanthropy for the local implementation of the youth-focused Safe and Sound Cities or S2Cities Program, starting from provision of a venue for a youth hub where the youth can come together, develop innovations, and create solutions for a Safe and Sound Baguio, among other initiatives for youth development.

On economic recovery and development, Magalong reported Baguio has the highest Gross City Domestic Product at 9.9 percent compared to the national GDP which is at 7.6 percent.

The city is still regularly holding the Sunday Session Road market encounter to give micro, small and medium enterprises the platform to showcase their products and connect directly with consumers.

In December 2022, the city reopened the Loakan Airport which caters to flights to and from Cebu, as Magalong hopes to connect the city to additional local destinations.

The city and Department of Tourism and Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority broke ground the first tourism test area in Luzon to enhance the overall tourism experiences of visitors coming into the city by providing the necessary visitor amenities and likewise serve as a hub for local creatives and entrepreneurs.

Eleven of the city’s catalytic projects have already been completed, 16 are still ongoing, six projects are awaiting funding, four have been endorsed for bidding, four are under evaluation by the P4 Committee, and two are with the P4SC committee under negotiations, namely the market modernization project which is almost 95 percent complete and the intermodal transport terminal which is 60 percent complete. The original proponent status (OPS) for the elevated monorail, smart mobility and transportation system, and the Asin hydroelectric plant will be issued next week.

On smart city management, Magalong said the city is working closely with the Department of Information and Technology to improve the city’s connectivity and it will soon launch free WiFi in nine areas within the city.

He said the one of the city’s noteworthy digitization  initiatives is the Baguio In My Pocket e-governance payment aimed at enhancing accessibility to services and making them available at everyone’s fingertips.

The city also launched the Paleng QR PH Program of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas which promotes cashless payments and a culture of digital engagement.

On good governance, the People’s Council officers took oath in May. The city established a civil society organization desk to promote participatory governance.

“Additionally, we have always taken a proactive stance in citizen engagement through regular public consultations. This practice ensures that our decisions are shaped by the collective wisdom and feedback of the people we serve.”

Magalong reported the city government filed three complaints against the Department of Public Works and Highways for their involvement in substandard projects.

He added they are also focused on enhancing administrative structure by refining the city government’s performance governance system, obtaining additional ISO certifications, and improving organizational development to establish a governance framework that is effective and accountable and responding adeptly to the dynamic needs of the city.

“Good governance is our promise to the people of Baguio to create an environment where fairness, responsibility, and transparency thrive. It is a covenant, a pledge that transcends administrative duties. As political leaders, we bear the responsibility of creating conditions where good governance can not only take root but also evolve into a way of life. Tama na ang mga dating gawain. Hin-ding-hindi na gagana ang mga nakasanayan noon,” Magalong said. – Hanna C. Lacsamana