BAGUIO CITY – Local executives in Baguio and Benguet are now up in arms over attempts in the Senate to railroad the approval of Senate Bill (SB) 2169 that seeks to create the Greater Baguio-Benguet Development Authority (GBBDA) which is a substitute for SB 1692 that earlier recommended for the creation of the Baguio-La Trinidad-Itogon-Sablan-Tuba-Tublay Development Authority (BLISTTDA) without incorporating in the proposed law their recommendations contained in an approved resolution.
In a letter to Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate committee on government corporations and public enterprises copy furnished Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Baguio City Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan, Benguet Gov. Crescencio C. Pacalso, La Trinidad Mayor Romeo K. SAlda, Itogon Mayor Victorio T. Palangdan, Sablan Mayor Arthur Baldo, Tuba Mayor Ignacio R. Rivera and Tublay Mayor Armando Lauro requested the senator to reconsider the submission of the substitute bill for third and final reading and instead consider our proposed amendments in the final version of the measure so that there will be justice to the outputs that you were able to generate during the conduct of the public hearing in Baguio City. “We firmly believe that the substitute bill must still undergo more consultations with stakeholders for them to also share their inputs for its refinement instead of the GBBDA serving as an added layer of bureaucracy,” the local chief executive stressed in their letter.
The Baguio and Benguet officials pointed out that at the onset, they were supportive of the creation of the BLISTTDA that will serve as a coordinating body for the overall growth and development of Baguio city and its neighboring towns of La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, Tuba and Tublay as they were long time advocates of it, provided that, the authority that will be established will not be an added layer of bureaucracy, as we clearly stated in our position paper that was formally transmitted to your committee during the public hearing that you conducted in Baguio city on the matter.
“We were surprised to learn that your committee recommended for the approval of a substitute bill, SB 2169, to SB 1692 that seeks to create the Greater Baguio-Benguet Development Authority (GBBDA) which virtually set aside our earlier recommendations on how to make the BLISTTDA not an added layer of bureaucracy. With all due respect, the substitute bill will not in any way help in addressing the concerns that we raised but it is viewed to be another layer of bureaucracy that will infringe on the local autonomy of local governments as embodied in the provisions of Republic Act (RA) 7160 or the Local government code of the Philippines aside from intruding into the rights of our indigenous peoples in Benguet whose rights over their ancestral domain are protected under RA 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples rights Act (IPRA),”the letter added.
On January 22, 2019, the Senate committee on government corporations and public enterprises submitted Committee Report No. 557 which substituted SB 1692 with SB 2169 and to be approved on second reading 18 days after the conduct of the public hearing in Baguio City.
The contents of both SB 2169 and SB 1692 were culled from the provisions of House Bill (HB) 6974 authored by Rep. Mark Go and Benguet Rep. Ronald M. Cosalan which was passed by the House on third and final reading.
Ironically, SB 2169 is submitted for third and final reading on May 20, 2019 amidst the vehement opposition from various sectors of Baguio and Benguet to suit the interest of a few elite businessmen inside and outside the city.
The local officials asserted that the proposed amendments contained in BLISTT Development Council Resolution No. 001, series of 2019 were arrived at by the members of the BLISTT Development Council (created upon initiative of Regional Development Council to serve as coordinating body among BLISTT LGUs) after thorough evaluation and discussion as well as the implication of the said bill in the event that it will be approved and signed into law.
Among there proposed recommendations for consideration in the finalization of SB 1692 included the provision that there shall be created a BLISTTDA Governing Council that shall be composed of the mayors of the BLISTT municipalities and shall act as the policy and decision-making body of the BLISTTDA; the BLISTTDA Governing Council shall elect from among themselves the Chairman of the BLISTTDA; the BLISTTDA Governing Council shall be the final authority in resolving issues in identifying development programs and projects of common interest to the member municipalities and the City of Baguio in consultation with the concerned local governments, observing existing laws, rules and regulations; the BLISTTDA Governing Council shall be assisted by a BLISTTDA Administrator who shall be appointed by the President from among three nominees endorsed by the Governing Council and that the BLISTTDA Administrator shall occupy a permanent position to ensure synergy, continuity, efficiency and effectiveness of programs and projects in the BLISTT even with changing members of the Council; the BLISTTDA shall implement programs and projects to be funded from its own funds, while programs and projects of regional line agencies and the local governments sourced from their own funds shall continue to be implemented by them; there shall be created an Office of the BLISTTDA Administrator that shall help carry out its functions and that a BLISTTDA Development Council shall be created to assist the BLISTTDA Administrator in its coordinative function and shall be composed of the BLISTT mayors, BLISTT vice-mayors, Governor of Benguet, congressional representatives of Baguio and Benguet, BLISTT planning and development coordinators, and duly authorized representatives of the NEDA, DOTR, DPWH, DILG, DOT, DICT, DBM, HUDCC, NCIP, DTI, DA, DENR, DOST, CHED, PNP (Baguio and Benguet).
Baguio and Benguet claimed that it is unfortunate that the plight of the people was never considered by the proponents and the Senate committee that is why they are inclined to oppose the passage of the same.