February 29, 2024

Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong has apologized to the officialdom and residents of La Trinidad, Benguet for what he described as uncalled for statements that are damaging to the neighboring town and its primary product.
“I was emphasizing that we in Baguio are guilty of polluting Balili River that flows down to the municipality, that we have a social responsibility to address it and that we are going to do something about it so that they will have cleaner water but in my desire to drive home that point, I came up with an uncalled for statement that I should have not said at all.  I was wrong and I apologize,” the mayor said.
In the Jan. 10 consultation with the secretaries and ranking officials of the Departments of Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources and the Interior and Local Government, Magalong talked of the city’s urgent need to rehabilitate its sewerage system to address the pollution of the Balili River of which coliform level had run into quadrillions.
He then said this has adversely affects the town including its strawberry produce being irrigated by with the water from the filthy water source.
Realizing his mistake, the mayor immediately apologized to La Trinidad Mayor Romeo Salda through a text message: “Good afternoon Manong Romy.  My apologies if you felt slighted with my pronouncement regarding Balili River and strawberry farm. I believe it was uncalled for. I will make amends.”
Salda has acknowledged Magalong’s apology but sought to correct the implications of the statement in interviews with the local media where he reportedly said, “there is no irrigation from Balili River going to the swamp area where the strawberry farms are.”
Meanwhile, La Trinidad Municipal Tourism Officer Valred Olsim said the Baguio experience is not complete without tourists making a side trip to the nearby strawberry farm in the capital town.
Olsim said efforts have been made to address the source of irrigation of the strawberry farm such as the deep well constructed by Benguet State University, which manages the farm, to irrigate the area and the program of the Department of Agriculture in providing tanks for fresh water to irrigate the farms.
The tourism officer added that officials should be more careful in making statements and consider the impact it will have with their neighbors, especially as Baguio is seen as the leading force for the strengthening of the Baguio, La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, Tuba and Tublay or BLISTT partnership.
Vice Mayor Roderick Awingan, for his part, said the flow of Balili River is different from the area of strawberry farm. He said the issue is also a wake-up call for the concerned local government units to address the environmental issue involving Balili River.
“It’s really good that the issue came out so that we in the municipal government unit and even Baguio City would work together in cleaning up the Balili River,” Awingan said. – Aileen P. Refuerzo and Ofelia C. Empian