After Boracay and Manila Bay, is Baguio next on track?

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Environment and tourism officials have been telling us — yes, you and I and, more significantly, our own Apo Mayor — that other prime tourist destinations need to shape up or made to go through what Boracay had by way of much-needed rehabilitation. As names were ticked off in rapid crescendo, it’s no surprise that Baguio is in that 5-name list, yet interestingly, the only place without beach experience for tourists, foreign and domestic.

Initially, they’re saying that to bring back Baguio’s fine natural environment, there’s need to clamp down on infrastructure efforts that would seem to have just sprouted in the unlikeliest places of human habitation. “No build zone” transgressions is how DENR Chief Roy Cimatu has characterized it, something that Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat is sharing. She even says that letters of concern have been sent to the tourism-influenced LGUs, purposely to appeal for obedience with environment protective and enhancing laws.

Of course, locals like us couldn’t help but be wary of any national initiative to help stricken localities like ours get back on track, especially in the area of tourism whose income potential we’ve been content with all through the years. Local stakeholders, much more so the city government now led by a no-nonsense, deeply focused, and hardworking officialdom, will certainly want to be heard before national policies, especially the stringent ones, are put in place. Surely, there must be iron-clad certainties that sectoral and cause-oriented groups will always fight, tooth and nails, to be embedded like granite guarantees etched on stone.

If enough breathing space must be acquired for Baguio to have a respite from all the frenetic construction activities being undertaken here and there, fine. A years or so, fine. But closing down Baguio ala Boracay should be well-thought out because of the economic impact a shutdown would bring about, even more so at a time of inflation-induced difficulties. There is also the matter of Baguio being a mountain city with access into it freely traversed through national highways. Enforcing prohibited travel into our midst appears to pose enforceability problems, let alone transgressions to travel rights.

Building restrictions should be a positive direction in the way that it gives the city the welcome respite from all the development frenzy in recent years and decades. That kind of a breather should allow nature to re-grow, be nurtured, and given the re-generation for the wounds of the past to heal and recuperate. There’s no denying that Baguio needs to be revitalized, more so its very environmental resources that have historically been the premier allure globally and nationally recognized. Without having to cast aspersions on sins collectively shared, assets go through much-desired rehabilitation, including review of existing policies that are either unenforced to the utmost or ignored because the business of building is good for business, not to mention that property rights are on the line. More dialogues and discussions among stakeholders should be encouraged, not to further inflame passionate positions, but precisely to forge partnerships in both public and private sectors towards attaining shared goals. Ours is a unique environment that needs to be managed well enough to be carried out from generation to generation. Ours are environmental resources that we are mandated today, as one community, to care for, to nurture and to regenerate even before these descend to dwindling numbers, as in trees and forest cover.

Yes, dear ol’ Baguio, is our singular pride of place, where everything starts, from what we think, act and do. For more than a century, she has provided us the shelter from sun and rain, even during turbulent times. She has cared for us far beyond whatever sins of omission and commission we may have done to her. In silence, she has endured it all, reliant that we’d realize soon enough that enough is enough, that loving her back takes more than platitudinous affirmation. What she is now is largely the result of what we have done in our respective lifetime while living it out under her watchful gaze. What she will be in years to come, that’s for us collectively and singly to work on.

Yes, dear ol’ Baguio is our own Mother Nature, she who has been making possible that our city continues to be our pride of place. Through the years, she has been our wellspring for all the good, finite, and seemingly inexhaustible resources that Baguio has proudly showcased for all the world to enjoy and experience without limits.

From Mother Nature, we have had the hills and mountains adorning our skyline from days of old, the riverways from which water used to be fresh, pure, and desirable, and lest it be forgotten, the natural air conditioning system that is Baguio’s stellar allure, unmistakably the singular attraction that makes lowlanders come to us every little chance they get any day of the week.

What has remained of this prime environmental asset is a modern-day travesty inflicted by generations past, a monumental insult to the pioneering work of Baguio’s builders who had envisioned future caretakers to be as resolute as their vision had commanded. How our environmental resources are regenerated to the level of lush greenery they were when discovered by Baguio’s founding visionaries is a huge task that present-day visionaries —hopefully that’s all of us, regardless of age, circumstance and persuasion — should pursue with as much relentless fervor, steely determination, and steadfast purpose.

Regardless of time and circumstance, experts are saying that it’s all about climate change. But, let us admit that climate change did not just happen overnight. The scientific fact is that climate change has been happening bit by bit every single day of the last four hundred years, when man began doing things to upgrade his life, to make things happen the quickest way possible in the name of Kaunlaran, Kasaganaan, Kaginhawaan.

What we are today is the gross result of what we have all done by our continued, unceasing ways of mindlessly ejecting the toxic gases that is heating up the world’s atmosphere from our economic and motoring activities without letup. Sure, there are efforts done to mitigate what we have been greedily doing, to reduce the gas emissions polluting the skies, to go green and clean in the energy that we produce for our day-to-day life. But, these efforts have been shown to be feeble and insignificant, still quite far-off from the faceoff needed to make a serious dent.

The earlier we realize this, as if long overdue, the better for us to get Baguio getting ahead once more. As it were, time’s up, and it has long been up.

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