February 28, 2024

Baguio residents and those in adjoining localities must actively get involved as the city government pursues “catalytic” projects that will supposedly realize its seven-point agenda aimed at contributing in the achievement of the 17 goals for sustainable development.
These projects, presented to the public last Oct. 4 and 5 during the first “Public-Private Partnership Summit” organized by the city government and where representatives of companies pitched in their respective project proposals, should be subject to further series of discussions and consultations to make sure these are suitable for the city and these are what the Baguio people really need before any decision is made.
Projects proposals presented range from solving the so-called urban signage dilemma in the city, particularly at Session Road and the central business district and the diminishing urban aesthetics; a monorail and feeder line transport system, a sky shuttle project; an intermodal transport terminal; development and improvement of the Asin hydro power plants; and development of the city public market. All these may be described as ambitious, costly, and mostly never before done in Baguio.
Infrastructure projects and devising systems that will truly address long-time and recurring problems of the city – such as those concerning traffic, pollution, deterioration of its public market, heritage preservation, health, the environment, and activities that would further spur economic activities – should be welcomed in the light of the worsening situation of the city’s environment due to urbanization and changing climate.
We agree such projects are needed for the city to also be able to keep up with technology advancement and level up the city government’s ability to respond to the ever increasing demand for improvement in the delivery of public service.
With this, we understand that the city, while not lacking in revenues, does not have the capital to fund such projects and therefore would need to source out funds by inviting private investors and pursue big projects through a partnership.
With the institutionalization of “public and private partnership” in pursuing government projects, programs, and activities, we know it could be the most practical option to realize the plans laid out by city officials to improve its conditions and the ways things are being done in Baguio.
But with so much at stake and to preempt tendencies of serving personal interests, we ought to be reminded this should be the time for stakeholders to play their role in governance, by participating in the decision-making process and making their voice count, when flagship city government projects being proposed are most likely to bring substantial and drastic changes in the lives of constituents.
During the two-day summit, we however cannot help but miss the scrutiny typical of a critical audience, whom we usually expect to ask hard questions and demand details from company representatives about the projects they are offering to the city’s people.
Even in the case of proposals being that impressive to merit an instant approval, the Baguio stakeholders we used to know are those who do not get easily persuaded and those who would persistently probe and toss things over and over until they are sure and satisfied it will really be for their benefit and no disadvantageous agenda are lying hidden.
While mindsets also change, we hope to still have a Baguio public that continues to value the essence of critical, constructive, and peaceful discourse especially on matters or public concern.
We were always demanding about transparency in government and good governance especially in the use of public funds and activities that may compromise the historical and cultural values of the city, the latter being one closest to heart. Let us then continue being concerned, judicious, and actively involved.
For a highly urbanized city like Baguio that is struggling to balance advancement and its historical significance and heritage, introducing totally new ways of doing things is a challenging task and therefore requires massive discussions and consulted from ground up.
To make public and private partnership work for the city in whatever aspect it is required, the true sentiment of stakeholders is what should matter most.