June 20, 2024

The approval by the city council of a commercial event likened to a trade fair at the Burnham Park’s Rose Garden shows how our local legislators could be so inconsistent in their decision-making.
Recently, the city council approved the request of the Baguio Tourism Council to set up booths for the European-inspired market at Rose Garden as part of the activities of the monthlong “An Enchanting Christmas in Baguio.”
We welcome the holding of various events at Rose Garden, or in any public park or place, and we laud the efforts of tourism stakeholders in the city in bringing more fun and creative events for residents and tourists to behold.
But what we do not understand is the inconsistent decisions of our city officials when it comes to the implementation of local laws, among them is the Trade Fair Ordinance, which, among other things, prohibits the conduct of commercial activities in public parks or streets.
Regardless of how it is called, that European-inspired market at Rose Garden is a trade exhibition and the chalets set up there are no different from the booths or tents installed in an ordinary trade fair. The exhibition is a trade fair with a new name.
Like in any other trade exhibitions, operators of the chalets set up in the area are engaged in a profit-making activity. The only difference this time is that the products the public could buy from those chalets are high-end commodities, and majority of which could also be bought at the local stores, albeit at the sections where the more expensive items are displayed.
Are members of the city council so naïve that the activity they have approved is just another trade fair that was merely given name? We do not think so.
The request for the Christmas fair at Rose Garden is not different from the requests by various groups that have been asking the city council to allow them to hold trade fairs, mostly to raise money to fund their causes. In these instances, the legislative branch has denied such requests and has been firm in raising the provisions of the ordinance, guided by the mantra that parks and streets are beyond the commerce of man.
They even did not bend and were successful in transferring the booths set up at the space near the Skating Rink during the Baguio Blooms exhibition in February, which is part of the Flower Festival, an institutionalized event of the city government.
Besides, there is already a legal precedent when a Baguio court has ruled that the conduct of a trade fair or bazaar within the Burnham Park complex is a violation of the Trade Fair Ordinance, and an existing national policy, particularly Executive Order 695, which sets strict conditions on the conduct of commercial events within the park.
We were impressed by such decisiveness; and we were confident that the city council would maintain the firmness it has demonstrated in the past.
This is why we consider its recent decision disappointing. The council’s recent action has led us into believing that in this city, laws could be bent to favor the few. It is appalling that those who crafted the laws and are expected to implement them regardless of who is involved are the ones circumventing it.
The council’s recent decision could set a precedent for other groups that have creative dispositions to also request for permits to hold similar events as long as they are able to package their trade fairs in a creative manner, or give the same another name.
If a European-inspired market could be allowed at the Rose Garden, what would prevent the holding of a Latin American-inspired exhibition at the park? Would the city council also bend the law to accommodate groups that would propose the holding of an Australian or an Asian-inspired bazaar at the park? We hope they won’t.
We need the legislative branch to uphold its independence, especially in these times when a lot of decisions are wantonly handed down.