Baguio seeks to reclaim Athletic Bowl spaces not used for sports activities

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The city government is reviewing the legality of private and government agencies utilizing spaces within the Athletic Bowl premises at Burnham Park as part of Mayor Benjamin Magalong’s program to recover government properties.

A dialogue was held August 7, 2019 led by City Administrator Bonifacio Dela Peña with the representatives of the Philippine Army Reserve Command – 14th Regional Community Defense Group (Arescom), Baguio Tennis Club, RNR Sanitary Services and two canteen operators within the sports compound.

Dela Peña said the city plans to develop a multi-level indoor sports facility within the area where these establishments are located which seemed to be left without proper monitoring for decades.

“We are conducting this dialogue for transparency because offices in the city government seemed to have no idea who is supposed to manage and monitor these establishments,” Dela Peña said.

Per city council records, the Baguio Tennis Club has been utilizing the tennis courts at Burnham Park since 1976 based on Resolution No.106 during the term of Mayor Luis Lardizabal and was amended by Resolution No.24 in 1980 under Mayor Ernesto Bueno. Under the said resolutions, the Baguio Tennis Club was authorized to manage, operate and improve the four clay/shell tennis courts for two years only and to be devoted for public use.

The 39 years old resolution also provides that fees collected from non-registered tennis players utilizing the facility shall be deposited to a trust fund of the city however, Dela Peña found that not a single centavo has been deposited to the city coffers.

City Sports Development Officer Gaudencio Gonzales also reported illegal activities being undertaken at the Baguio Tennis Club such as gambling, smoking, drinking, videoke and illegal parking. He also reported Baguio Tennis Club members are given priority for the use of the tennis courts over Baguio athletes and coaches which is in violation of Resolution No. 24-80.

For the Arescom, a Memorandum of Agreement executed by the Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS) way back 1993 authorized the use of the space in Athletic Bowl as a regional military headquarters particularly for the training of reservists.

Atty. Isagani Liporada of the City Legal Office opined that DECS does not own the land where the Arescom headquarters was built and thereby the MOA does not have a legal basis.

Meantime, Gonzales reported that Arescom has turned the facility into its private lodging and even constructed extension of barracks without approval from the City Buildings and Architectures Office.

The RNR Sanitary Services was likewise complained for constructing an exclusive fence for the parking and repair of its water delivery trucks much to the inconvenience of the public.

Dela Peña advised these establishments including the two canteens operating within the Athletic Bowl to be ready to vacate the area once the city pursues its development plans for indoor sports facility.

“We are gathering all the data and reviewing the legal personality of establishments operating within the Athletic Bowl before we craft the technical design for the indoor sports facility but I am not promising that you (concessionaires) will be given a space because the mayor wanted to recover what the city rightfully owns,” Dela Peña explained.

In the meantime, Dela Peña said the operation of the establishments will be in a status quo pending the preparation of technical plans for the indoor sports facility.

As early as 2016, the city government lobbied for the construction of a multi-level indoor sports facility to house a state-of-the-art tennis court, basketball and volleyball courts among others with Php60 million funding from the Department of Public Works and Highways but engineering and technical design preparation has overtaken the plan.

By: Jessa Mardy Samidan
Photo by: Armando M. Bolislis

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