July 25, 2024

Keep cars out of Burnham Park

For the longest time now, Burnham Park has been hounded by proposals to construct a multi-level parking structure within its perimeter. This has been opposed by a large number of Baguio citizens, civil society organizations, and institutions.
Today, as threats to Baguio’s largest open green space seem to be accommodated by the city government, Tongtongan ti Umili, a network of progressive organizations in the city, along with various groups, wish to reiterate our firm opposition on the building of a multi-level parking at Burnham Park.
Burnham Park is a heritage site that bore witness to significant events of the nation and city’s history. Its heritage value will be drastically diminished should powers-that-be at City Hall get their way with the construction of a multi-level parking structure in the park, especially one that is funded through a public-private partnership (PPP).
Under PPP, infrastructures are built using usually onerous foreign or local loans, private corporations take over to operate, while the public takes the brunt of the expensive operation and management costs. This should not be the case in a city that generates massive income from tourism and businesses. The public character and historical significance of Burnham Park should be left intact and free from private capital.
The idea that building a parking structure at Burnham Park would solve traffic congestion in the city’s central business district is a myth that should be busted. Where cars abound, so do pollutants.
Studies have already shown that construction of a parking structure in any of the proposed areas in Burnham Park will only lead to increased traffic congestion and carbon dioxide emissions. The overcrowded nature of the city has even led to the World Health Organization declaring in 2014 that Baguio air as among the dirtiest in the country.
It is important to understand that the perennial traffic problem of the city is rooted on decades of traffic mismanagement, the lack of a reliable public transportation, and the overwhelming number of private vehicles in the city. Congestion cannot be solved by creating parking structures such as the parking structure which will only invite more cars.
As an alternative, the city government should decidedly improve the public transport system through government-funded systematization and rehabilitation, encouraging a huge majority of Baguio citizens to commute instead of using their cars; it should also scrap the current proposals for parking structure at Burnham Park and explore other feasible options outside the CBD.
This proposal has been raised time and again, and we will continue to reiterate our position that Burnham Park is for the people, not for cars, and not for any private interests. — TONGTONGAN TI UMILI, Baguio City