No shutdown of Baguio to tourists â mayor
Magalong doused fears of a total shutdown of Baguio from tourists just like what was done in Boracay.
The STAR/Geremy Pintolo, file

No shutdown of Baguio to tourists – mayor

Artemio Dumlao (The Philippine Star) - December 16, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Tourists will still be able to visit Baguio City as the rehabilitation of the country’s Summer Capital will be gradual, Mayor Benjamin Magalong said yesterday.

He said the rehabilitation of the city would not be as drastic as that of Boracay as it is focused on massive regreening and the improvement of the city’s sewerage system.

Magalong doused fears of a total shutdown of Baguio from tourists just like what was done in Boracay.

"It will be difficult to prohibit tourists from coming to the city, as it is the gateway to other parts of the Cordillera," he said.

He added that there were initial meetings with Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu and Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Ano and they agreed to bring to the attention of President Duterte the issuance of an order mandating the partial rehabilitation of Baguio.

The order would indicate a one-year moratorium on the construction of buildings and cutting of trees in exchange for funds to implement the desired rehabilitation of the city’s existing sewerage system, Magalong said.

Polluted rivers

The mayor also sounded out an alarm that the city’s rivers have been polluted as he cited reports from the Cordillera office of the Environmental Management Bureau.

The bureau reported that only 12 percent of Baguio’s houses are connected to the city’s sewerage treatment plant, which has also exceeded its carrying capacity and has leaks.

The readings along the Balili River that flows to La Trinidad, Benguet have reached over 1.6 billion most probable number of fecal coliform bacteria per 100 milliliters while the recorded readings along the Bued River that flows to Rosario, La Union have reached 465 million MPN per 100 milliliter, both beyond acceptable standards, Magalong said.

Aside from rehabilitating the Baguio sewerage treatment plant, particularly in North Sanitary Camp, part of the proposed rehabilitation is to put up a facility in Lower Rock Quarry and five other plants in strategic areas to address the pollution in the city’s river systems.

Magalong is proposing to the local government to require all residential and commercial structures to be connected to the sewerage treatment plants to prevent them from directly discharging their wastewater to various river systems.

"This is one of the major causes of pollution in the different rivers in the city, aside from those coming from piggeries that directly discharge their waste to the different bodies of water around the city," he said.

Currently, Baguio's sewerage treatment plant operates at 12,400 cubic meters daily, way above its normal operating capacity of 8,600 cubic meters daily.

 “There is an urgent need for rehabilitation (of the sewerage system), considering the increase in the number of houses in the city, which has reached over 90,000,” Magalong said.

He added that parking buildings using green architecture could also decongest traffic within the central business district and its vicinity.

Another tourist spot that would be rehabilitated, he said, is the Baguio City market, with its rehabilitation to be done in phases within two to three years at the cost of at least P5 billion.

Magalong said he is bent on rehabilitating it to turn it into “one of the best markets in the Philippines.”

Mines View Park may also be closed sooner than Burnham Park as the bidding for the P18-million rehabilitation project is already ongoing, he said.

“Baguio’s problems are so complicated that political will is badly needed to address these problems,” he said.

Smart city

According to Magalong, the city has received its fund request of P200 million from Duterte for the first phase of the project that will turn Baguio into a "smart city," the first of its kind in the country.

With a command center using artificial intelligence, the local government would soon be able to strictly monitor the movements of people and cars to better manage the traffic flow, he said.

It would also help the city cut its expenses on lighting and improve water management.

"From a safer city, we want Baguio to be known as a smart city. The use of technology will be later on used as platform for digital transformation, for digital governance and the shift to a digital economy," he said.

The smart city project is seen to be completed by July next year.

Proposals from various foreign companies, such as Huawei, Cisco, China Telecom and those from Japan and Russia have flooded the city government's office, Magalong said.

Rehabilitation proposals were welcomed by various sectors, especially those who had been “hurt by Baguio’s continued deterioration into a concrete jungle, commercialism filth and ecological stress," Magalong said.

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