IF perchance you stumble upon the City Government of Baguio’s ‘About’ page, you will find this written as the mission: We shall create a sustainable and enabling environment that will promote economic stability and ensure the general well-being of our citizenry.
Then when you move on to the vision, it says: Baguio is home of diverse and dynamic cultures, center for education, trade and tourism in harmony with nature managed bu God-loving steadfast leaders in partnership with responsible and peace-loving citizenry.
The typo error ‘bu’ must mean ‘by,’ correct?
But moving on…
Like most mission and vision statements, these words look good on paper and on the city government website. The keywords: sustainable, environment, economic stability, well-being of our citizenry, harmony, nature, God-loving, etc., all read great.
And if you notice, the word ‘environment’ is stated in the mission and then ‘nature’ is brought up again in the vision. So noble, indeed, at least on paper.
It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but it seems I was misled.
When Mayor Benjamin Magalong was still campaigning for the mayoralty, he said, and I quote from the October 25, 2018 issue of the Philippine News Agency, ‘he intends to focus on environment preservation, finding the solution to the mounting road traffic in Baguio, and peace and order… He said he is bound by the four core values of transparency, accountability, ethics, and integrity.’
The people of Baguio City who were averse to the construction of a mall on top of Luneta Hill and tired of the unresolved terrible air pollution – Baguio was ranked No. 1 (with the dirtiest air in the country) in the World Health Organization’s 2014 air pollution study – on top of the traffic congestion, loss of more trees to urban sprawl and overdevelopment – all had long been unhappy with the then-leadership’s seeming lack of direction for the city, other than seeing Baguio as just another product being sold to and exploited by the highest bidders.
And the city has long been exploited.
But with the last local elections in 2019, people’s hopes for a better Baguio were revitalized with the then mayoralty candidate and retired high-ranking police officer ‘Benjie’ Magalong’s promise to focus on protecting the environment.
I even remember running into the mayor’s wife (who also runs) one cold morning along Kisad Road. She briefly spoke to me and said, ‘Please vote for my husband.’ She then gave me a flyer which detailed the mayor’s platform focused on sustainability and environmental protection.
Finally, I thought, there’s hope for the city.
Later on, Mayor Magalong expressed his desire to decongest the city center and pedestrianize Session Road. All good things.
But my dilemma now is reconciling how our mayor seems to be fine with or open to the idea of:
*Allowing a mall corporation to take charge of modernizing and developing the public market;
*Building multi-level parking facilities in parks (Burnham and Wright Park);
*Adding a zoo to the Botanical Garden.
People opposed to the idea of a mall giant handling the supposed modernization of the palengke have different reasons: economic, political, cultural, environmental, etc. I’m not assuming I know everyone’s perspectives here, but mine is very clear.
Putting up a multilevel structure with thousands of parking spaces in the public market area is not pro-environment at all. Instead, it will worsen, not decongest traffic in the area. It will also keep the air in the surrounding roads and streets polluted.
And the sad thing here is that some supporters of the idea of a mall developer handling the modernization/development of the Baguio public market fail to see beyond their noses, saying:
- Those allegedly against the market rehab are against progress.
- Those allegedly against the market rehab are political opponents of the mayor.
- Those allegedly against the market rehab don’t want the corruption in the palengke addressed.
- Those allegedly against the market rehab are happily shopping at the mall, so they are hypocrites.
I repeatedly use the term ‘allegedly’ here because people who are against allowing a capitalist to have a hand in ‘developing’ a public space are NOT AGAINST DEVELOPING THE BAGUIO PUBLIC MARKET.
And to be clear, I support the mayor’s plans as long as they do not run contrary to the concept of sustainability and environmental protection.
Besides, our right to air our grievances is embodied in and protected by Article 3, Section 4 of the Philippine Constitution.
We also want a clean and organized Baguio City Public Market – but one that does not require billions of pesos to improve. Besides, the reason why the budget is so stupendous is because certain floors are allocated for the mall – floors that are unnecessary if we are to have a proper palengke.
And what of the palengke’s character?
Our public market is also part – a big part, actually – of the local culture.
Where is that culture reflected in the plans?
There are also financial aspects of the proposed development that are questionable.
But I won’t touch on these because I am not qualified.
Besides, Judge Del Claravall already tackled these very well in his column Grassroots, etc. under the title ‘DEVELOPING THE PUBLIC MARKET THROUGH “SARILING SIKAP”’ in the 14 November 2020 issue of the Baguio Chronicle.
As for those against a mall developer participating in the palengke rehab who shop at the mall anyway, isn’t the mall owner happily taking their money, too.
Not unless only mall supporters or confirmed mall lovers/rats should be allowed inside malls – I’d support that, too.
But I digress.
Conventional business – just like treating one’s city as a capitalist product – leaves very little to no room for genuine, long-term environmental protection.