“Air apparent now”

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The 15-city list said to be among Asian cities having the cleanest air must have saddened Baguio folks, not seeing their prideful place in the coveted roster. Eleven Philippine cities are there alright — among them Manila, Quezon City, Mandaluyong all in Metro Manila’s highly polluted locations — but where’s Baguio? As millennials are wont to say, AnyareE?

Of course, it is no secret that Baguio’s pristine environment, long the envy of other local cities nationwide, has always been at the topmost of environmental priorities. Let’s face it, the pure natural air that Baguio used to be greatly proud of is no longer there, after decades of deterioration brought about by economic progress that everyone wanted soon after the 1990 earthquake. In the aftermath of that disaster, Baguio needed to go through rapid rehabilitation, the local economy brought back to life from the ruins of the devastation wrought by natural disasters and man-made neglect.

Pure, natural air is what we’ve been nationally and internationally known for through the years. Admittedly, in our desire to speed things up economically, our environmental concerns may have seemed to merit not much consequential push, not as much anyway in the way we practically moved heaven and earth to get things moving fast. With economic progress unassailably on the ascent, so did our coveted Baguio air flushed out, gone on steep descent from purity to toxicity.

Are we surprised that this has been the case for many years now? Just too many motorized vehicles, running on dirty energy, have been plying the city’s road networks from point-to-point. Just too many visitors come up every small chance they get, many of them on four wheels of motorized contraptions powered by diesel and gasoline processed from carbon dioxide emitting energy long castigated for the toxic bombardment of the earth’s atmosphere. Just too much focus had been concentrated on things that make one’s life easier and comfort-laden for short term benefits, while disregarding long-term impact of pure bad air.

More than anything else, Baguio’s exclusion from the honored list should serve as an overdue wake-up call for policy planners in both public and private sectors. We just have to get acts together, acting as one strong voice to bring back Baguio’s fresh natural air. Road tests for vehicular toxicity may not just be enough to bring sanity and sense back into our consciousness. Getting puny penalties for vehicles that continue to spew deadly fumes just won’t do. Else, how explain that Baguio seems to have not even qualify as a city having clean, fresh air.

To be sure, downtown air may have improved somewhat in recent years, as DENR tells us, giving assurances that Baguio air is getting back its natural freshness, no doubt as a result of positive actions done on the road. No doubt, improvements in this regard have been noted in the last few years. No doubt, stronger measures are in dire need.

After all, if there’s a singular attribute that can be Baguio’s sole uncontested claim, it is the natural environment that has served to inspire compatriots and tourists alike to be up here at the slightest hint of getting refresh, reinvigorated, and revitalized. And natural environment means clean, pure, natural fresh air.

Now that we’re into initiatives of having Baguio declared as an Eco-Green City, it should do well for us to mind the air we breathe as another major environmental issue to contend with as we plan out priority issues where global linkages with concerned MNCs — the big boys in the Climate Change club — can be established, firmed up, and forged to promising partnerships.

Boarding the bus on the way to an Eco-Green Baguio may be a major step in the right direction. We can identify the priority thrusts to put Baguio in the mainstream of climate-resilient cities, but local actions must be put impressively forward to merit the kind of sustainable support that environmentally concerned companies worldwide are keenly interested to plunk the investible funds where they count most.

Yes dearie, we’ve been hollering since way, way back for us to get going in our advocacy to give Baguio a break after having been just led through the maze of environmentally challenging times. Now that the city has demonstrated serious heed to climate change challenges, there’s a window of opportunity that has been opened for us in Baguio to get going in so far as clean and green issues are concerned. About time indeed, no matter how belated.

Bad garbage disposition, bad air, bad times. We at G2BG can do no less than invest more of our time and effort to help the city in every way reasonably possible. As the city’s chosen advocacy group, no stone should be left unturned for all of us in government and non-government sectors to get ourselves consecrated towards the identified goal.

We do know the difficulty in meriting substantial global support for specifically-designated eco-green projects. We do realize that intentions are never enough, no matter how pure and unstained, for everyone on board the technical working group to remain focused, unaffected by differing perspectives from where we are.

Indeed, far too long have we advocated nothing less than a dynamic public-private partnership that can endure the test of time, even far beyond the borders of territorial demarcations. Far too long has Baguio’s pristine but precariously growing environment been at grave peril, long before Boracay and now Manila Bay have merited national attention. And far too long has Baguio’s green projects been in doldrums, not because of lack of persistence on the part of our leaders, not because of lack of funding considering Baguio’s financial strength.

Where we have been these past several years could have been the result of far too many cooks dipping into so many sauce, little realizing time’s punishing effects. Too much time had gone by, while the difficulties of decades-long stubbornness has festered to put us where we are — bad air, bad wastes, grim forebodings.

Again, we raise what the stakes are: to initiate and craft the benchmarks for eco-green programs and projects worthy of invaluable support from multinational companies with proven global reputation in helping advance local governments.

As a people, we have the strengths that have historically been our chief asset in getting things done, despite the odds besetting us every step of the way. As leaders, we should all the more feel challenged to hold the fort and stay the course, to sidetrack issues of less consequence, to offer middle grounds where attitudes and interests can capably converge, to argue from commonly shared interests, disregarding whatever feelings are bruised or waylaid.

About time we realize how progress comes to those who work the hardest. Showing the way, leading others, working ourselves to the bone — all these have been our time-tested recipe for hard, honest work done in teamwork, in unity, and in genuine love for Baguio.

As a people, it’s time we endeavor everything humanly possible to alleviate us from the very scourge that has now been upon us for decades now. Scaling down carbon emissions — singly and collectively as no less embedded like being etched on stone in the Paris agreement on climate change — is the only sensible thing to do. And that is simply because it is the only right thing to do.

To reiterate what our task from community to community acting as one global force: bring down the level of massive pollution now afflicting the world. This means reducing strategically the greenhouse gas emissions into the earth’s atmosphere. This means putting in place a strategic policy to reverse our energy use from coal to alternative energy sources. This means removing the incentives that firm up our over-reliance on coal as principal source of our energy use. This means adding up our voice, no matter how tiny, to the global pressure for the world’s leading polluters to walk their talk.

Towards an Eco-Green Baguio, we now have a chance to make our feet do the talking for us, hopeful that the MNCs out there will give us a listening ear beyond the borders put up by greed and avarice. In the end, it is people — yes, you and I and the rest of all us — who must do its share, even at the cost of the most extreme of sacrifices to keep Planet Earth a worthy hand-over liberated from the clutches of fossil fuel, free enough to use alternative clean energy sources with less pollutive effects to the global atmosphere, free enough go beyond the borders of our self-serving attitudes, free enough to break the barriers that the sins of inhumanity have imposed. Are you too?

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