The Way Forward

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In two weeks time, or less than that, the city would be ushered in a new phase in its growth and development, no doubt buoyed up by what has become a rousing call to action for those of us who have been longing to nurture our environment, back to what it had been envisioned more than a century ago.

Yes, we now have a new set of leaders in whose collective hands the destiny of Baguio’s future, if we can call it that, have been entrusted. A Congressman given a second term, a Vice Mayor who has had years of legislative experience down the road, several reelected City Councilors, scores of returning legislators, and a newbie who’s got all the promise that we could believe in. Last but not the least, in all definitiveness, we’ve got a new Mayor, who must have pulled off the biggest score of the year.

How our chosen leaders would swing it out, given their differing political persuasions, should not be too much of a burden, if they’d just set aside, like moments frozen in time, to the need of the hour. To be sure, it would take more than just simple pronouncements to bring out unity, not unanimity, of purpose. Whose baton will they follow? The Congressman, the Vice Mayor, or the Mayor?

Indeed, that’s a tough thing to handle, given how traditionally, each one of them, in whatever roles they play, has a secured place to be working from. What if these purposes are in fact crossing each other out? What if his is sharply divergent from mine? What if, despite the convergence of interests at the start, somewhere along the way, the strategic means of accomplishing that goal, uppermost it may be, seems too idealistic, or worse, appears to get beyond the 3-year timeline anyone must work within?

One recalls the early weeks into which the same set of public officials were ushered into June 30, 1992, when the likes of Congressman Vergara, Mayor Domogan, Vice Mayor Farinas, and the 12 other Councilors, were swept into office, practically drawn from a cross-section of political parties as many as what we now have. Initially, there was anxiety all around, no doubt exacerbated by the fact that the nation had also a new President in FVR.

Informal talks had it that PFVR told the Baguio guys, newly elected just like him, to get their act together, and not miss a chance for Baguio to recover, from the debilitating effects of a killer-quake, from a local economy that seemed to stagnate, from a toxic environment that was propelling even locals to run away.

The way forward is to be together, PFVR must have intoned in all seriousness, and that is what moulded everyone to bond it up like band of brothers on the way to war. And war it was they were headed, the war to bring back Baguio’s doddering economy, the war to revitalize the infrastructure systems needed for things to get moving, the war to put in place the systems that work amid economic stagnance, the war to restore education, chief among them, to perk up movement all over.

The rest is history, Baguio rose in no time, about 6 years, to be up there in the pedestal of endearing cities every Filipino, especially those having no less than the extraordinary dream of visiting Baguio despite their very ordinary means.

Two weeks into June 30, 2019, and we’d have that kind of quandary, which direction towards the future, must Baguio be led. What can we do to ensure that the future ahead be well-secured, well enough for our children and theirs to have something precious to enjoy, to cherish, and to hand over to generations next? If we are concerned about it, it’s only because nothing less than that can pave our way into the future.

Having chosen the leaders to bring us up that road was a good starting point. We did choose well the right kind of aspirants, amid all the heat, hustle and bustle afflicting us these days. But that was just the rightful next step. Come June 30 and onwards, we’d be anxious to know the first marching orders to set the direction into which we’d be taken to. A journey, or just a ride?

If it’s a journey, then the next 3 years may well see an all systems go mood buoying up City Hall, enough to make us certain that for once and for all, the long lingering difficulties of the past decades will be addressed. Believe me, folks, they have been daunting, huge roadblocks that have not been sparing even for just a momentary relief.

The environment alone has been one over-arching concern that has bred a myriad of issues splintering out into the open: garbage, sewage, landslide-prone mountain tops, development frenzy from the west to the east, the air that we breathe, the water we take in. Name it, and we seem to have more of it each passing day.

To be sure, those not on board for Baguio’s Second Coming will see it differently, even divergently. Those with ill motives and interests to serve other than the city’s will hold their ground too, even if the well-intentioned in us will stand ground just as strong, if our moral scruples are deeply embedded, if the faith to get going is so strong that, whatever it takes, change, as we know it, as we want it, has huge chances of getting achieved and realized.

That is why it makes absolutely good sense to add our small voices for our political heavyweights to desist from dirty politics and keep our campaign activities immaculately clean. Baguio has always been a shining example of clean politics all through the years that elections have been held here. A small city, in contrast to lowland cities, Baguio has managed to be above the usual combustible political fray and in time has even cultivated a culture of enduring friendships even among political rivals.

Baguio’s natural environment cannot escape being up there in our priority concerns. It should be easy for sincere candidates to roll out what he’s expected to do when vested with public approval on the strength of the shaded oval opposite his name. After all, if there’s a cause of legitimate concern that merits discussions and actions to be taken, it should be Baguio’s environmental situation that has hugged national limelight in recent years, given the unchecked over-development that has degraded much of our natural resources.

And because of our critical need, there must be more water, a most vital need, coming off many a household faucet more times in a day. The city’s aquifers have languished far too long to generate more of it, no doubt resulting from less and less trees nestling our forest cover. Watersheds well-placed in many sites continue to be besieged by unwanted, but uncontrolled intrusions by the homeless just wanting to have a piece of Baguio property to their name, even if based on mere factual circumstance.

Of late, Baguio’s fresh air has come down to perilous levels, given the daily bombardment of toxic fumes from dirty energy-fueled motorized conveyances. Respiratory ailments have since afflicted the vulnerable among us, mostly the elderlies and the very young, exposed as they had been to the poisonous air. Strolling right in the heart of the city’s downtown area has in fact become a punishment, not because of the up-and-down trod, but mostly due to the bad air besieging the walkways, ejected uncontrollably by diesel-run vehicles on non-stop waiting gears.

Then, our garbage. Well, well For the longest time, it’s time to come up with a lasting solution to waste disposal that would do away having to spend P100 million a year, on the average, just to get it out, hauled and dumped somewhere far from our noses. While other cities elsewhere have been doing it the right way, using advanced technology in harmony with the environment, here we are still immersed in a solution overtaken by the times, a solution that was to serve as a patch-up remedy at that particular time, but a money drain in time.

Mr. Public Official-elect: you know what’s up. If you’re getting the old boys club song-and-dance, just tell them up yours down to where it belongs!

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