After the obvious success of the rehabilitation of Boracay in 2018, a lot of news has been all over social media that the same will be done in Baguio City. And while it took a while for its confirmation, the Summer Capital of the Philippines will finally have its make over this year. Residents of the city can definitely say that it is indeed a happy New Year!
Yesterday, the Baguio City government, together with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, finally kicked off their plans. After a meeting with city officials and stakeholders at The Mansion, Department of Tourism Secretary, Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, announced that the city will push through with the rehabilitation plans, with the goal being sustainable tourism.
Following the meeting was also Interior Secretary Eduardo Año’s clarification that unlike what was done in Boracay, the City of Pines will not be closed to visitors. Instead, the rehabilitation will be focused on environmental and zoning laws. This is due to the fact that the city government manifests a clear vision of what they want for the city.
Baguio City Mayor, Benjamin Magalong, called the way to their vision the 4Cs—coordination, cooperation, collaboration, and communication. Magalong said that authorities and stakeholders are looking into a strategic plan for Baguio that will hold its future for the next 15 years.
The rehabilitation, as Magalong emphasized, will focus on the people’s interest and their inherent rights. In response, Rep. Marquez Go shelled out his opinion on the matter saying that the local government should be the one to lead the development, with the national government’s support. “Development should not be biased for foreign tourists,” he pointed out, “it should be people-centric.”
Magalong then proposed that even though the life of the entire rehabilitation will be longer than his term as the city’s chief executive, the redevelopment of Burnham Park should be first on the list seeing as it is the most doable project. The Department of Tourism has previously committed to the beloved park’s redevelopment for 480 million pesos, opening the opportunities for stakeholders who want to commit to the redevelopment of the city.
With the rehabilitation ongoing while the city is open to visitors, there will be an observable rise in tourism that goes against inadequate infrastructure. In light of this reality, Año gives insight that the people, especially the city residents, will need to bear with the process. However, at the same time, he assured them that they will benefit in the end. “We do not want Baguio to be called the highest Smokey Mountain.” he said, emphasizing the need for the rehabilitation.
DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu also showed the department’s support for the rehabilitation plan. “Enforcement (of environmental laws) is not an option but a must,” Cimatu stressed in his speech read by Assistant Secretary Jesus Salazar. “We will respect IPs (indigenous peoples) and promote social justice.”