RECENTLY, I found out that the city of Baguio, where I live – obviously – has filed yet another project in the big-ticket projects folder. Something ambitious, as is the trend for the current big-ticket projects under this current administration.
The project I am speaking of is the plan for the rehabilitation of Wright Park. The details are currently scarce, but we do know that the current estimated cost is somewhere close to P350 million, which, and I say this without any irony, is a large amount of money.
I am torn on this. I spent quite a bit of time in that park, having gone to school in Rizal Elem, right in front of the park. The scent isn’t quite something I can confidently say I miss, though it does occupy a space in my head rent-free. Nostalgia through the scent of waste mixed with grass and pine is a strange experience.
To be in or near the park brings forth some memories that are – fond? – of my childhood, of a better time from when the most of my concerns were lining up the angles on the jolens to get the perfect hit. Simpler times, when Baguio felt perfect, when the 6 A.M. chill before classes wrapped around one’s body and let one feel the mountain’s rugged embrace.
So I do actually approve of this effort to improve upon the horse-park as most of us know it. It is a tourist spot that has seen better days, one whose age shows in more than the lethargy of the hitched horses and the patched cobble of the long stairway.
I like that the declared plans will supposedly – fingers crossed – focus on Wright Park as a stable – heh – green island that can serve as both a carbon sink, a habitat for Baguio birds, and a generally environmentally-friendly area.
But at the same time, I hold issue with the idea of spending 350 million pesos to improve a park in today’s times, where we have barely started on the path of recovery from the billions of losses incurred in year one of pandemic life.
Yes, it is a good idea to improve our parks. I am not questioning this in the slightest. What I am questioning is the timing of it.
P350 million goes a long way. Just recently, the Department of Agriculture provided a 10 million peso fund for the city’s urban farming and agriculture industry, which in itself is a large amount.
Just imagine if that funding was instead allotted for similar projects to boost the economy of the city, which has seen better days. Projects to get the people back on their feet. While I am not enough of an economist or urban planner or that kind of specialist to know how exactly that 350 million can be used to liven up Baguio, all I can say as a layperson is that shelling out that much for the rehabilitation of a park is kinda sus.
And of course I have other worries about this project. The market rehabilitation, the planned Dairy Farm abattoir… many big-ticket projects in the city have had private hands in it, or are looking for private involvement. Which begs the question – will the horses be in private hands as well?
Slowly, inevitably, the city is sliding towards higher value properties, higher value infrastructure, higher value everything – as you would likely know if you keep any track of my previous columns.
This is currently just the cynic in me wishing to be happy about this, but there are things of questionable nature in here. We’re planning to spend three times more than the allotted stimulus loans we have for small businesses in the city to liven up the eight hectares of park. Objectively speaking, it is a lot of money. A lot.
This is no small matter, no simple horseplay. Keep our eyes peeled, and pray for the best decisions to be made.