May 23, 2024

The proposed Baguio Busking Ordinance authored by Councilor Leandro Yangot, Jr. underwent scrutiny during the Baguio City Council’s regular session on March 11 as the city council members delved into its various provisions and implications.

The ordinance which aims to regulate street performances was under question regarding its possible impact on public order, safety of minors as participants, and the rights of performers to freedom of expression.

Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda raised concerns about the timing of performances in relation to the Silent Night Ordinance which prohibits making or causing excessive, unnecessary, or unusually loud sounds from audio devices within residential areas and public streets in the city from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.

She suggested performances should end by 10 p.m. to comply with the Silent Night Ordinance.

Tabanda also inquired about regulations concerning minors participating in busking, highlighting potential risks of exploitation or abuse of minors participating in busking due to the presence of tip boxes in front of them during their performances.

Councilor Arthur Allad-iw emphasized the importance of reviewing the proposed ordinance for possible conflicts with freedom of expression.

He said Section 6 of the proposed measure stipulates that all street performances must undergo scrutiny for appropriate content to be approved by the Street Performance Committee before a permit is granted.

“I am particularly concerned about the implications on the performers’ rights, such as freedom of expression. For instance, if a performer chooses a song like Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’, which contains political commentary, it could be considered prohibited content,” Allad-iw said.

Allad-iw also proposed that coordination with the City Social Welfare and Development Office be initiated as busking may also include visually impaired singers.

He said the aim is to enhance the busking experience in the city whose primary purpose is to showcase artistic skills rather than solely focusing on financial gain.

“I advocate for the collaboration with CSWDO to ensure that regulations align with efforts to discourage mendicancy and promote genuine artistic expression through avenues like busking. We are striving to move away from begging. If individuals sing primarily to solicit money, it essentially falls under mendicancy,” Allad-iw said.

Councilor Peter Fianza recommended the first paragraph of the proposed ordinance, which links busking to the city’s recognition as a creative city, be removed as it is “irrelevant.”

He said when the city received recognition, it was for its craftsmanship and folk arts, particularly weaving, tattooing, and silver crafts.

Fianza also noted the proposed ordinance contains provisions allowing performers to sell their goods and directing police officers not to disperse or remove performers from the area which, according to him, may not align with the principle of abating nuisances.

 “In cases where a performance becomes a nuisance, it should be addressed and stopped accordingly, rather than allowing it to continue unabated,” Fianza said.

Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan suggested conducting research to determine whether other local government units had passed busking ordinances, so that the city government of Baguio may learn from their experiences.

“If beneficial, we can adopt similar ordinances from other LGUs for the City of Baguio,” Olowan said.

Councilor Jose Molintas expressed concerns about negative feedback at the time the proposed ordinance was made known to the public through the official Facebook pages of the city government.

He suggested further review to address issues related to child protection and anti-mendicancy laws. 

Yangot acknowledged the initial negative reaction to the proposed measure.

However, he said that, after the public consultation conducted by the city council’s committee on tourism, special events, parks, and playgrounds, the general outcome was positive which led the said committee to recommend its approval for second reading after publication.

He added the City Tourism Office had conducted several public consultations on the matter.

Yangot proposed that once all city council members reviewed the minutes of the public consultation, the proposal could be scheduled for its return for approval on second reading after publication. – Jordan G. Habbiling