May 23, 2024

The city council summoned Burnham Park concessionaires in relation to the reported illegal activities of the masseur group.
City Environment and Parks Management Office (Cepmo) Head Rhenan G. Diwas, and Public Order and Safety Chief Daryll T. Longid were invited as resource persons during the council session recently to clarify reports involving a group of masseurs who are going around the Burnham Park and offering massage services.
Longid said the Environmental Code prohibits the conduct of massage in the parks, along with manicuring and henna tattooing.
He said the Cepmo and POSD have been dealing with the group for several years now and they exhausted options for the group, to no avail.
He said they engaged in a dialogue with the group to come up with an agreement. Some of the requirements they asked from the group are to unify, assign a representative, and secure permits from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, Department of Health, and City Health Services Office.
However, the disagreements between the groups remain and the members continue to operate within the perimeter of the Burnham Lake illegally.
The POSD who has been assisting the guards of Cepmo filed a case against the masseurs, but the same was dismissed by the City Prosecutor’s Office because the Environment Code requires a certain level of damage to the vegetation or landscaping before a case of such nature is brought to court.
The concessionaires said the masseurs have become a nuisance to the tourists as they roam around the inner lake path, occupying seats meant for the tourists, and intrusively offering their services to their prospective clients.
There have also been reports of swindling, overcharging, and creating commotions in public. There were public posts of these incidents including a foreign vlogger who was ripped off by the group.
Guia Limpin, one of the concessionaires also aired her concerns when her son was approached by a father who was victimized by the masseurs.
She also informed the council the concessionaires were asked by Cepmo to help them in reprimanding the illegal masseurs and yielded results as their numbers decreased.
When asked about the consequences of the act, Lt/Col. Domingo Gambican of the Baguio City Police Office said the masseurs were not treated as illegal practitioners.
Cepmo only warns them. In some cases, the offenders were led to the police station but continued to operate anyway. One of the groups that attended said they were not fined but only did community service.
Evangeline Reyton, president of Baguio’s Wellness Massage and Manicurist Association, Inc., denied the accusations and said they have already complied with some of the requirements.
They also clarified they are registered as a 20-member person group with licenses.
She said she has recently been active in monitoring her members and added none of her members were involved in the incidents.
A representative from Cepmo said they are not questioning the members’ credibility as masseurs, but reiterated they cannot do it in the park as there are tourists that do not want to be bothered.
He said their “ambush-style” massage has “uglified” and left a bad impression of the city to the tourists.
He added their growing number has become a problem.
Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan suggested for Cepmo to come up with their recommendations and urged the masseurs to look for a legitimate and decent place for their services.
Councilor Rocky Aliping asked the group to comply with the law and temporarily cease operations as the council studies the matter.
The group reiterated their request for a place just like the blind masseurs in Session Road and told the council they could not afford to cease operations as they have families to feed.
Councilor Arthur Allad-iw sympathized with the masseurs but stood firm they have to comply with regulations. He moved that the masseurs be referred to the Office of the City Social Welfare and Development and those who need training and provided with livelihood should be screened. – Jenfrey Y. Benafin