Plans complete but pandemic takes away budget for Baguio City rehabilitation
This Sept. 2, 2020 photo shows residents visiting Burnham Park during its reopening.
CEPMO Assistant Department Head Rhenan Diwas via Baguio Public Information Office/Facebook

Plans complete but pandemic takes away budget for Baguio City rehabilitation

Rosette Adel (Philstar.com) - October 1, 2020 - 9:27pm

MANILA, Philippines — Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, in his state of the city address last month, reported that the master development plans for the City of Pines’ tourism and other sites have been completed.

Magalong was particularly referring to the development plans for Burnham Park, Bayan Park, Mines View Park, Wright Park, Dominican Heritage Hill, and Baguio Cemetery. He said they are now awaiting funding and implementation of these plans.

In January, the mayor also bared the world-class design plans for tourist destinations including Burnham Park, Mines View Park, Arboretum, Bayan Park and Baguio City Public Market. He then said these plans would be implemented in the next 15 years.

The local government unit of Baguio City and the Department of Tourism throughits infrastructure arm, Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), then signed a memorandum agreement on the funding that sealed the P480-million rehabilitation of Burnham Park.

However, Magalong said, the DOT-TIEZA grant for the improvement of Burnham Park was re-aligned for pandemic expenses and implementation has been postponed.

This was confirmed by Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat who said that with the approval of Republic Act 11469, or the Bayanihan To Heal As One Act, in March, the government slashed P12 billion from TIEZA's budget.

“Unfortunately, nasama po yung for rehabilitation of Burnham Park, (the rehabilitation of Burnham Park was included)” she said in a press briefing last week.

Rehab of Burnham Park only delayed

Despite this development, Magalong said he is optimistic for the rehabilitation of the park. He said the he has communicated with the DOT and TIEZA, adding that TIEZA Chief Operating Officer Pocholo Paragas vowed the project would not be abandoned.

"What’s good about this is that there is a commitment from the DOT and TIEZA...once the fund for rehabilitation of Burnham Park arrives, it will become their priority. That’s their commitment to us,” Magalong said in English and Filipino.

Burnham Park reopened to local residents last month after being closed during the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine in March.

It opened its boating, biking and promenade areas. although there are restrictions on the number of parkgoers allowed in. This measure is meant to ensure adherence to physical distancing.

The local government also imposed regular lushing and disinfection to ensure the safety of parkgoers.

Baguio pushes to create more 'green spaces'

In his state of the city address last month, the mayor also shared that the Arboretum and the Botanical Gardens are now in their first and second phase of improvements with a total budgeted amount of P36 million.

“Our parks had been attracting tourists and we cannot discount the economic benefits that we derive from them. But of utmost importance is these spaces do not just provide attractions but they are constantly improved and maintained for our social and physical well-being as well as for our mental health as we bond with nature,” Magalong said.

"The pandemic may have set back some of our initiatives but it also has revealed how we can consolidate ideas and efforts," he also said.

On Tuesday, City Planning and Development Office chief Donna Rillera-Tabangin said her office is coming up with a comprehensive map and database for the establishment of “green spaces” in the city, which has been recognized as a UNESCO Creative City.

Tabangin eyes this green spaces, covered with grass, trees, or other vegetation set apart for recreational or aesthetic purposes “to enhance the city’s natural environment and improve health and wellness.”

The Baguio CPDO chief earlier warned that Baguio is losing green spaces to overdevelopment.

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