BAGUIO CITY – Officials of the environment and tourism departments underscored that the government has no plans to totally close Baguio just like what it had done to Boracay island because of its peculiar situation being a landlocked area.
In his message that was read by Assistant Secretary Jesus Enrico Moises Salazar during the meeting of Baguio City officials with some Cabinet Secretaries held at the Presidential Mansion Friday, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu pointed out that there had been no plans to close Baguio City for the implementation of similar rehabilitation initiatives that was done in Boracay because such closure would be impractical, the city being the gateway to the Cordillera.
He stated that the environment department is supportive of the planned implementation of sustainable development projects in the city that will result to the improvement in the state of the city’s environment aside from providing livelihood opportunities and tenurial instruments for the people.
Assistant Secretary Salazar represented Cimatu during the aforesaid meeting after the latter flew to the Middle East to oversee the mandatory repatriation of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who might be caught in the brewing conflict between Iran and the United States of America.
The DENR chief committed the all-out support of the agency in the implementation of sustainable environmental preservation and protection projects so that Baguio City will be able to contribute in the government’s efforts to improve the country’s forest cover by at least 10 percent for the benefit of the present and future generations of Filipinos apart from the fact that the city will be able to regain its status in terms of having well protected forest cover.
Last year, Cimatu ordered the conduct of an inventory of pine trees in the city following his observation that there are numerous dead pine trees that are still standing within the premises of one of the golf courses in the city.
Based on the results of the census, there are only some 418,000 fully grown pine trees in the city and that the forest cover that was left is around 20 percent of its 57.49-square meter land area.
For her part, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat explained that plans of closing Baguio City were never discussed in their previous meetings but clarified that she was against the put up of a parking building within Burnham Park during the previous administration without rehabilitating the city’s premier tourist destination.
However, she clarified the need to implement the development of the 34-hectare Burnham Park complex as the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) approved the provision of some P480 million to implement the desired improvements in the various portions of the park to help improve its current situation.
The local government is now currently finalizing the detailed plans and specifications of the comprehensive development of Burnham Park which will be submitted to the tourism department and TIEZA for the eventual release of the funds that will be provided for the development of the premier tourist destination in the city.
By Dexter A. See
Photo by Armando M. Bolislis