March 4, 2024

Overtime, the city government of Baguio has offered many projects for development under a public-private partnership but among the projects up for PPP, the planned redevelopment of the city public market remains a contentious and a polarizing issue especially in a community that has been clamoring for its upgrade but at the same time called for its preservation as a heritage site.
Recently, three business groups issued separate statements essentially agreeing that the market needs to be upgraded. However, the third group – the consortium of cooperatives at the city market said they can undertake the development according to what the people of Baguio want – not a high-rise structure as envisioned by the city government, but the same place where commerce and trade continue to thrive.
We agree that the development of the city market is long overdue. But instead of offering it for PPP, the city government must strive to take the lead role by funding the redevelopment project.
Officials endorsing the development have maintained that only a PPP could yield major improvements in the market as the city government does not have enough funds for the facility’s development. But that is if the upgrade follows the plan for a high-rise building. However, the plan can be revised incorporating what a traditional “pamilihan” or “palengke” should look like only this time it should be organized and observes the strictest sanitation standards.
This administration is on the right path when it started weeding out illegal practices in the market such as subleasing, mortgaging, sale of stalls, and illegal extensions. The effort to keep the market clean is also commendable and the plans to make these long-term is worth pursuing so that Baguio will be able to have a market worth visiting not just out of necessity but also because setting foot at the market is a pleasant experience.
But the development of the market need not be complicated and expensive. What the people of Baguio want is simple – a clean, sanitized, and orderly facility where a variety of products are accessible and affordable. Honest and amiable vendors are a bonus if the city government, through the Baguio City Market Authority, is able to institutionalize vending guidelines.
Due to a fire incident in the past, the city government had introduced “temporary” improvements at certain sections of the market where the design was based on the “pamilihang bayan” where the vending area is maintained as an open space and where vendors are allowed to display their products then bring their products home at the end of the day.
This system has been maintained up to the present and all that need to be done is improve schemes that have been proven effective and do away with those that do not work and those that are illegal.
We are aware that it is a gargantuan task to return order in the market especially since many of the irregular systems being practiced there have been tolerated by past city officials and even the vendors themselves, but those advancing for a “high-rise” marketplace should think multiple times and consider that putting concrete into an open space is like obliterating the very soul of the city – the area where people from all walks of life converge.
Putting ethnic symbols in the proposed building to symbolize Cordillera heritage is shallow. These are mere decorations – insufficient to preserve the actual historical and heritage value of the area.
At this time, presenting a comparative study showing which options are more advantageous to the city and its people must be given paramount attention by City Hall, not simply harping on the presentations of project proponents, whose end goal is to gain profit in the long run.