WE are – is it possible? – facing a huge Merger Monday here in the city of Baguio. Of course, it’s not on a Monday, but we are facing a massive merger, or at least the possibility of one. This week, the Baguio City Council is pushing for a massive merger of Baguio barangays – from 128 to as low as 34 in the initial figures – more context in this issue of the Baguio Chronicle.
Now, there are still many steps before such a merger happens. We don’t just jump to having only 34 barangays out of nowhere. There is much to be done before such a merger can take place. Plans have to be created and laid out on paper, and then passed through the grinding station of public consultations, to say nothing of the internal consultations that are required before any plans see the light of day. And at the end of the day, the plebiscite before it can be ratified.
As we speak – read or write? – the ordinance for the merger of the barangays has only been passed on first reading. That’s not a lot of progress quite yet, but on the other hand, it is in a way, since it has passed first reading. Clearly, there is merit here that the council sees.
One of the major justifications provided are the massive savings that the city would accrue once the barangay situation has been streamlined. Costs of salaries and honorariums for barangay officials would be massively reduced – the total amount spent for the annual salaries and honorariums of barangay officials would be roughly P120 million every year.
It’s a lot, but the merger would see savings of some P335 million annually. This would be due to the massively decreased number of officials to pay among other things, which is not the point – the point is that there is a lot of money on the line here. Money is desirable.
Initial informal polls conducted by the city council online indicate that the wind of public opinion is blowing the way of the merger, but again, these are very preliminary movements. The feelers are reaching out and lightly tapping on its surroundings.
What exactly does this mean for us regular residents? Well, the specifics are unclear, but the promises are there – better governance and more streamlined services, more funding for barangay operations, more revenue for the city.
Changes would be inevitable if this moves forward. If public opinion is indeed favoring the mergers, then we are likely to see the passage of the ordinance and its ratification. But the sample sizes are still small, and the education and information campaigns, and public consultations have yet to take place.
I must admit I cannot be sure what the consequences of this ordinance’s passage and ratification would be. This is outside my admittedly limited realm of expertise. And I believe that qualifies me to say this – I am working on what I can assume is an average level of knowledge on this matter, and therefore it is important that I be educated appropriately before I am made to make a decision. Sometimes, the truly smart thing to do is to admit that you are not properly informed on a matter, and then seek out proper information on it.
Which is why I don’t have an opinion yet on whether this move is good or bad or the much more nuanced “both”. I simply do not have the proper grounding or basis for an educated opinion. And I am sure there are many like me. So it is imperative that before an ordinance this significant is passed, the me’s of the city are given the appropriate foundation for a truly informed and educated opinion.
Hopefully, the education comes before Merger Monday does.