Eco-tourism important to Baguio’s growth


BAGUIO CITY – To promote eco-tourism and banner up the city as a favorite tourist destination, former Baguio Representative Bernardo Vergara said that a no-nonsense reforestation program anchored on bamboo propagation should be continued to contribute to the replenishment of forest resources in our watersheds.

“Eco-tourism is very important to Baguio’s growth, and aside from planting more trees like our Benguet Pine, all infrastructure projects done in Baguio should include a drainage system that efficiently works 24 hours daily and also the installation of engineering techniques to enhance soil stability on mountain sides,” he continued.

“We have a mountain city and we will need engineering knowledge and environmental awareness to see to it that the proper measures are taken to keep our community safe from floods, soil erosions, landslides and other nature-induced calamities,” Vergara pointed out.

Vergara rose from the ranks as a government engineer, capping his illustrious stint as a multi-awarded district engineer of La Union until 1978 when his achieving performance caught the eye of President Ferdinand Marcos and Tourism Secretary Jose Aspiras, and the reason why he was named general manager of the Philippine Tourism Authority, a position he served well until 1986. Both Aspiras and Vergara are credited for the unprecedented tourism arrival growth record of one million visitors in one year.

Not only a government engineer, but also a tourism promoter, Vergara bursted into Baguio’s political landscape in 1992 upon his election as congressman, and was re-elected in 1995 and in 1998 to serve a full nine-year uninterrupted term in Congress. He won honours for Baguio by being named as an outstanding legislator in 1994, in 1997, and in 1999, including a Gintong Ama award for leading a model family life.

In his first year as congressional representative of Baguio, Vergara said that he implemented the Burnham Park Development Project starting with Rose Garden as the showcase of a fine tourism promenade. This was completed in 2013 with P60-M budgetary aid from the Department of Tourism.

In 2001, upon his election as city mayor, he launched programs that he has worked for as congressman for 9 years, actively promoted peace and order, revitalized tourism and education, generated access to livelihood and jobs, and stimulated small countryside activities through barangay development projects.

Under his mayoralty watch, Baguio won national and international awards, the most cherished of which are the Best City Police Office nationwide title twice in a row and the City with Outstanding Environment Practices cited by the United Nations.

In May 2010, Vergara was elected back as congressman, on the strength of his all-around performance record that has marked his congressional and mayoralty terms, and on the people’s clamor for an engineer of a congressman for Baguio to overcome a threatening urban blight and win back the nation’s trust as the Summer Capital of the Philippines.

This was when he started his environment-friendly program of replanting the city’s seven watershed reservations and two other forested areas with 50,000 bamboo saplings.

Vergara led in the planting of bamboo saplings in Busol, in Buyog, as well as in the Camp 8 watersheds, and in Santo Tomas, Military Cut-off, the Pines Trees of the World Park, the Botanical Garden, Lourdes Subdivision Extension, Camp John Hay, and Forbes Park in cooperation with the Philippine Bamboo Foundation and the Baguio Water District.

He explained that this alternative reforestation project aims to address the water shortage problem in Baguio, soil erosion and to help mitigate the effects of climate change.

According to research, Vergara continued, improved bamboo varieties are one of the most suitable planting materials to combat the current exponential increase in hillside soil erosion, particularly for the control of ravines. Studies show that the root system of bamboos will hold back a lot of the erosion, although some silt will pass by steep areas, but when the land levels out somewhat below the gullies, hedgerows are planted to hold back remaining silt.

“Bamboos grow fast and have good holding ability to prevent soil erosion, enhance soil stability, and protect mountain sides. This is the way to go in replenishing forest cover,” he continued.

In 2011, in coordination with the Department of Energy, he also sourced and put in place an LED lighting system within and around Burnham Park to restore the park’s ambiance at night and encourage night time promenading. The Mansion House and Wright Park were also lighted up, using the same DOE-supplied lights.

In 2013, he also restored Burnham Lake into a pleasant sight-seeing and boat-riding experience after decades-old silt was dredged out and it was later infused with fresh water. He said that next in the total rehabilitation project is the restoration of the dancing fountain in the middle of the lake.