November 30, 2023

■  Hanna C. Lacsamana

“It’s long overdue.”

The Hotel and Restaurant Association of Baguio (HRAB) has expressed its full support to the revitalization, development, and modernization of the Baguio City Public Market.

In a public statement published in the Midland Courier on Sept. 17, the HRAB said the initiative of the city government under Mayor Benjamin Magalong is a transformative venture that “sets a promising trajectory, harmonizing tradition with innovation, and aligning environmental stewardship with societal progress and a vibrant future for both residents and visitors of Baguio City.”

The group said modernizing the city public market will enhance public health and sanitation, uphold transparency which is a “resolute stand against corruption and a clarion call for unity and progressive governance”: lead to economic revival and competitive advantage; lead to Baguio City’s inclusive growth and equity; enrich culture and education; lead to the public market’s enhanced accessibility and mobility through a multifaceted approach; revitalize infrastructure and sustain urban development; and will lead to integration of culture and local artistry.

Among others, the HRAB believes the modernization of the public market will streamline traffic flow within the market premises through improved road infrastructure and layouts that alleviate congestion and reduce travel time.

It will also upgrade public transportation networks by ensuring seamless connections to various parts of the city which promotes ease of access and reduced carbon footprint; provide safe and comfortable areas that will encourage walking and thus promotes healthier lifestyle and reduces vehicular traffic; provide additional parking and amenities; inclusivity for differently-abled individuals; technological integration; heightened safety measures; environmental initiatives; and would facilitate access to contemporary facilities.

HRAB president Anthony de Leon told the Midland Courier in an interview that all sectors, including hotels, restaurants, travel and tours, and the academe are united in supporting the city public market development, which they believe is long overdue.

“Our position is for improvement of the public market, transparency, and sustainability. We are not endorsing anyone to develop it. But as far as the principle of developing and upgrading, it is what we support,” de Leon said.

He added having a modernized market will become yet another main attraction of Baguio City.

“Right now, while it is true that it is well-known to some tourists, it has limited potential due to accessibility. As far as parking is concerned, there’s virtually none. Second, in terms of sanitation and hygiene, can we say it really follows international standards? I’m sure the public can tell the difference,” he said.

The HRAB added its support to the market development underscores its commitment to fostering a new era where transparency, accountability, and excellence exists.

“We strongly believe and advocate for this revitalization because it symbolizes more than just urban renewal; it embodies our collective dreams and aspirations for a community that thrives on unity, diversity, and transparent governance,” the group said in the public statement.

The city government has long been planning to modernize the city public market and was close to realizing it when it entered with a deal with Uniwide more than 20 years ago. However, the project had not pushed through due to the inability of the developer to finance the project and due to legal suits questioning the legality of the market deal contract.

The current administration, as part of its, long-term agenda, has been working on realizing the project through public-private partnership where it accepted proposals from interested developers.

It is now on the last stages of negotiation with SM Prime Holdings, which was granted the original proponent status, and will soon be coming up with the terms of reference that will later be subjected to the Swiss Challenge where other interested parties may match the OPS holder’s proposal and pitch in their offer, and from which the city government upon recommendation of its Private Public Partnership for the People Initiative Committee will make its decision to be confirmed by the city council.