September 25, 2023

With the impetus created by the recently enforced rehabilitation of Boracay and Manila Bay, Mayor Benjamin Magalong has advised residents to brace themselves, as Baguio City, another one of the country’s top yet “beleaguered” tourist destinations, is now the next target for rehabilitation not only as part of the city administration’s 15-point agenda but also that of the national government’s plans through the Departments of Environment, Tourism, and the Interior and Local Government.
The plan, officially announced during a meeting between top city officials and the heads of the three national government agencies on Jan. 10 at The Mansion as the Baguio Rehab Program, is something to look forward to – only if it could be assured the city would not allow itself to be dictated upon and that the welfare of Baguio residents does not get sacrificed in the name of tourists’ satisfaction.
By this we mean that while the national government is infusing fund support to Baguio’s rehab plans, the city government should not be compromised on how it manages and implements its plans, especially if these would not be practical and applicable in the city’s situation.
While there is nothing wrong in tapping experts from outside the city on how to solve the city’s problems, why not tap our own, including the heads of the city’s own departments who in their own right should be experts in their fields. We want to see concerned City Hall departments at the helm of this rehab master plan – if we ever have one – and the ones that will synergize the plans of action of each concerned department and line agency so we do not have policies with contradicting results when implemented.
As in other plans, before a grand rehabilitation could be finalized and take off to the right course, we have to be assured that the people – the Baguio residents – are consulted through credible methods that reflect the true pulse and insights of the people. We cannot discount them, as theirs should be the final decision, in the same way that properly consulting the private sector is a sure way of coming up with sound, sustainable policies on tourism industry and the city’s general upkeep.
We could not agree more with the comment of a ranking official that the rehabilitation should benefit the people of Baguio and not only the tourists, as no amount of money could ever restore the city’s old grandeur without the support of its own citizenry knowing their welfare is paramount.
That the Summer Capital badly needs a total overhaul is already an old song that even non-residents are now familiar with, reason why we understand the strong desire to make solutions work this time. However, it is improper to lay the blame on the previous administrations, which we believe had fairly envisioned a sustainable tourism for being the lifeblood of the city. It is only unfortunate that previous efforts failed, foremost in unifying the stakeholders, which should keep us on track in dealing with the problems all of Baguio knew about, but are just not keen on taking part of.
Another thing noticeable is that up to now, we have not heard of an update on the request of the city government for a moratorium on the construction of high-rise structures and tree-cutting that pose serious threats to the city’s fragile environment. To put things in perspective, Baguio attracts tourists due to its temperate climate and remaining green patches, not by the malls or high-rise structures.
We hope the plans of mending all the things that ail Baguio would successfully take root this time, not only for the tourists but more so for the benefit of the people of Baguio. The residents, after all, are the building blocks of this city that tend to be mismatched at times but could surely re-form and would definitely remain, with or without the transients and carmageddon and all.