October 2, 2023

A few weeks ago, conceptual plans for the development of the Baguio’s show windows – Burnham Park and the city public market – have been approved by the city council. One of the conditions in approving the conceptual plans is for the committee in-charge to consult the public about their insights about the proposals.
Incidentally, approval of the conceptual master development plans came at a time when Mayor Benjamin Magalong has been lobbying for the Office of the President to issue a moratorium on the construction of high-rise buildings in the city.
The conceptual design for the market shows that the building will stand at five stories with provision that if there are more funds in the future, three stories will be added.
For Burnham Park, the TWG ruled out a multi-level parking building but what was mentioned in the recent public consultation was the broaching of a plan for underground parking in a select area of the park – it is not multilevel but if it materializes, its construction requires massive excavation.
In both cases, we find that the conceptual designs are not consistent with calls for a moratorium.
Is the moratorium for private sector projects only?
While the public has yet to know the exact contents of the draft moratorium order as prepared by the regional office of the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources, we think the TWG has to fine-tune its designs in a manner that is consistent with the same rule the city wants to impose for hotels or condominiums.
We are with the city government in its efforts to improve the city’s most frequented destinations. We also think that the developments of these two areas are long overdue. Who would not want a park where there is enough space to roam? Who would not want a market that is clean and organized? No doubt every resident of Baguio would answer in the affirmative. But along with these wishes is the need to be aware that we too, should be bound by the same rules we have aspired for in the first place.
Instead of a multi-story market building, the TWG might want to consider the concept of a pamilihang bayan. Inside, there will be proper zoning, hygienic practices will be imposed, and modern storage and display areas will be made available while at the same time, staying true to an open market concept.
For Burnham Park, we appreciate the fact that the TWG is keeping at a minimum the type of development that will take place in the area. We hope that if and when it decides to tweak the design, proposals for underground parking should be set aside. Instead, the TWG could look at portions of the reservation as suitable parking spaces, but do not necessarily entail massive construction.
For one, the presence of more parking spaces within the Burnham Park complex will invite more vehicles, which is not ideal for a premier park such as Burnham Park.
Burnham Park and the market are both heritage sites of Baguio. Long before the city became a settlement of migrants, these two areas were and still are places where people from all walks of life, congregate. Transforming these areas into something that barely show traces of our heritage is like stripping us of our valued heritage and identity.
As consultations are being conducted, we hope the TWG will still be able to incorporate valuable inputs from the public. After all, we are one with the current administration that along with its thrust to conserving its remaining resources, it also has to show the world that the city we call home is also a city that strikes the balance between development and preservation of its heritage sites.