No Boracay-like shutdown for Baguio City rehabilitation

Artemio Dumlao - Philstar.com
No Boracay-like shutdown for Baguio City rehabilitation
Called the "City of Pines," Baguio remains a popular destination for tourists.
Baguio City Facebook page

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines — The massive regreening of Baguio and the rehabilitation of its sewer system is the focus of the city's planned rehabilitation, Mayor Benjamin Magalong said.

This as the mayor explained that the proposed rehabilitation of the city will not be as extensive as that of Boracay's, which saw it shut down to tourism for six months.

Magalong had disclosed his initial meetings with Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu and Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año had agreed that the two would ask President Rodrigo Duterte to issue an order for the rehabilitation of the city.

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

Magalong doused fears of a total shutdown of Baguio from tourists, saying it will be difficult to keep tourists from coming to the city since Baguio is the gateway to other parts of the Cordillera.

"The rehabilitation of the city will primarily focus on our sewerage system and massive regreening and it will be impractical to close the city because of the said problems that would affect the whole city," Magalong said.

'Polluted rivers?'

Based on reports from the Cordillera office of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB-CAR), Magalong sounded the alarm that the pollution of the city’s rivers has reached alarming levels. 

He said only 12% of the houses in Baguio are connected to the city's sewerage treatment plant, which has also exceeded its carrying capacity and has leaks.

According to him, the readings along the Balili river (that flows to La Trinidad, Benguet) had reached over 1.6 billion most probable number (MPN) per 100 milliliter while the recorded readings along the Bued river (that flows to Rosario, La Union) had reached 465 million MPN per 100 milliliter, both beyond the acceptable standards.

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

Magalong is proposing to require all structures to be connected to the sewerage treatment plants to prevent them from directly discharging their waste water into the various river systems.

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

Magalong believes there is an “need for rehabilitation considering the increase in the number of houses in the city which has reached over 90,000”.

He said parking buildings using green architecture could nail down the traffic congestion inside the Central Business District and nearby areas. 

Another tourist spot that will be rehabilitated is the Baguio City market, which will be done in phases. Rehabilitation would cost at least P5 billion and would take two to three years.

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

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

'Smart City'

According to Magalong,  Baguio City has received its fund request of P200 million from President Duterte for the first phase of the project, which will turn Baguio into a smart city.

With a command center using artificial intelligence, the local government would soon be able to monitor the movements of people and cars to better manage the traffic flow. 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," Magalong said. "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 also 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 already flooded the city government, the city mayor claimed.

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