UNDERSTANDING BAGUIO UNIQUE SITUATION

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Last April, President Rodrigo R. Duterte ordered the total closure of Boracay Island to undergo the rehabilitation and clear encroachments and redress grossviolations of environmental laws that caused the pollution of the scenic white sand beach in the country. The template of Boracay’s closure and rehabilitation now serves as the mode of closing and facilitating the rehabilitation of similarly-situated areas in the country to allow business establishments to comply with stringent environmental laws, rules and regulations.

The closure and rehabilitation of Boracay had a significant impact in the economic activities and employment in the premier tourist destination in the country. For the past six months, the island had been deprived of foreign and domestic visitors that should have served as a major economic driver in the area. Boracay was able to hurdle the rehabilitation stage and it is now trying to recover from the 6-month lull in business activities.

Prior to Boracay’s closure and rehabilitation, it was published in a website spreading fake news that President Duterte ordered the closure of Baguio starting this year on the Holy Week break but the Holy Week passed and there was no closure was done. When Boracay was reopened to tourists, it was again published in the Adobo Chronicles website that Baguio City will be closed for rehabilitation by November 1, 2018. The said day passed but no closure again was ever done. Hundreds of thousands of foreign and domestic tourists continue to flock to the city to spend holidays and vacations and no one has been stopping them to come to the city.

Concerned government agencies and the local government recognize the fact that the country’s undisputed Summer Capital has its own environmentally-related problems that are being given preferential attention and immediate action to guarantee the sustained preservation and protection of the city’s environment. It is the city’s environment and altitude that is sustaining its cool and romantic weather that attracts most visitors and thus the need to maintain and recuperate the environment if we have to have a claim this kind of weather.

Several actions on some issues had been taken, for example, the problem on the existence of piggeries in some barangays had been given the appropriate attention by the Cordillera office of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB-CAR), the local government and various sectors which led to the prohibition of piggeries in the city. The issue being given utmost attention by the various government agencies and the city government is that on forest and watershed protection with an aggressive campaign to rid the said reservations of informal settlers.

Being landlocked, Baguio City serves as the gateway to other major tourist destinations and communities in the Cordillera region with numerous exit and entry points. This is a major factor that is why closing the city is unlikely as it could not be effectively guarded by members of law enforcement agencies.

We must remember closing Baguio is next to impossible. While there will be somethings that must be put in order, it will simply be confined to the said areas and will not include all of the areas in the city. Even environment and tourism officials who visited the city and were asked on the closure and rehabilitation of Baguio admitted that it would be difficult to that and the only thing that may be done is for violators of environmental laws and regulations to be required to be punished according to the law and take corrective measures for defects that will be pinpointed by experts.

Let us understand the peculiar situation of Baguio which could not be compared to the situation of Boracay or Palawan which are both islands that can be easily isolated. It is best to help by starting with very practical things that can save the environment – segregate your domestic waste at home, convert organic waste into fertilizer and use it to have green in your homes, even in recycled containers and water your plants with recycled water, walk and claim sidewalks and green spaces, stop throwing your garbage anywhere, plant a tree and ensure it grows to maturity, lobby for more environmentally-friendly projects, monitor developments in your community to ensure they
comply with environmental laws and policies, etc. There is so much to do to stop the environmental degradation of the city.

We have to move on from here. We should not sit on our laurels. It is not yet too late for Baguio to regain its identity because it never lost the same, it simply faded because of the serious effects of unbridled urbanization.

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