Status Baguio: Development for the People, Not for the Few!

August 29, 2015

This year marks the 106th celebration of Baguio Day since its declaration as a chartered city in 1908. With more than a century, Baguio has faced rapid urbanization these past decades, where the land and environmental protection in the area has been sacrificed for the entry of the so-called “development”.

Last July 20, Mayor Mauricio Domogan delivered his State of the City Address (SOCA) “Advancing Development thru Teamwork towards a Sustainable Baguio”, boasting of the various “accomplishments” of the city government under his term.

Tongtongan Ti Umili-Cordillera Peoples Alliance and its member organizations are dismayed with the mayor’s SOCA, which acted as a “cover-up” of the true state of the city and its people. The persisting issues and problems on the delivery of basic social services such as: high prices of laboratories and lack of medicines in Baguio General Hospital, high cost and commercialization of public education, environmental degradation, urban maldevelopment, misprioritization of projects as seen in the on-going roads rehabilitation, violent demolitions (one of which led to the death of vendor Oscar Caranto), harassments & stealing of goods of ambulant vendors from POSD personnel, worsening peace and order actions, drugs, gambling and other anti-social activities were not tackled.

Mayor Domogan stated in his SOCA that “we ensure that spending will be limited to programs, projects and activities that are truly needed by our constituents”, yet residents who had their settlements demolished are left with the problem of finding a place for their families to live in since the local government fails to provide relocation sites. In terms of education, it is a blatant lie that the city is now “K12 ready”, especially since the problems in the lack of facilities and equipments, classrooms, and textbooks were not yet addressed.

This year’s first batch of students under the K12 program feel that they are used as “guinea pigs” for this unprepared program in education, where they have to photocopy their learning modules out of their own pocket money. Also, 600 teachers and employees of the Saint Louis University (SLU) will be facing unemployment by SY 2016. Teachers who are expected to teach under the K12 program were also not given sufficient trainings and teaching modules. The problems in the education sector in the city remains, in the same manner throughout the country.

As of last year, there has been a wide clamor among the residents of the city to stop the proposed tax increase in the city on the basis that (1) there has been insufficient information dissemination done on the part of the city government; (2) the tax rates of the city should not be based on the rates of other nearby cities; (3) there are unclear and overlapping taxes collected by the city treasury office and the Bureau of Internal Revenue; (4) multiple garbage fees’ collection; and (5) the capacity of the city to produce sufficient revenue as a top tourist destination in the country .

Despite the numerous position papers opposing the tax increase which were passed to the city government, administrators are bent on pushing this increase. The question on where do the taxes of the residents go, and how these were allocated were not answered during the two public consultations done. Baguio residents are aghast with the attitude of the city government in pushing forth the said increases to produce a higher revenue for the city, when delinquent taxpayers, businesses and corporations like the CJHDevCo-BCDA have unpaid taxes amounting to hundreds of millions. Small residents and businesses are burdened with paying taxes, while large corporations and businesses are able to get away for years of not paying theirs.

The local government also boasted of their environment-friendly programs, stating that “the city has sustained the aggressive pace in our campaign on environmental protection, pollution control and the proper management of facilities and assets that contribute to environmental integrity”. Throughout the term of Mayor Domogan, it has been proven that the city has faced multiple problems on environmental degradation where the city’s environment has been sacrificed to give way to infrastructure projects. The city is now becoming a decaying urban concrete where there is only a remaining 8% of forest and watershed areas. The ongoing fencing at city hall, proposed multilevel parking lots in the Melvin Jones grounds will destroy the largest open space and aquifer in the Central Business District area.

In the same manner, the proposed multi-level parking lot & commercial business by SM, cutting of trees by SM at Luneta Hill, by Camp John Hay Development Corporation –Bases Conversion Development Authority at Camp John Hay, by Goshen at Ambiong, Bakakeng Norte-Sur,Salud Mitra, Irisan and by a tophoncho politicians at Mt. Santo Tomas Forest Reservation, and the continuous building of sky-rise hotels (Le Monet, Pinesview,Crown Legacy etc.) condominiums (Moldex, Suntrust etc.), dormitories (Goshen, etc.) subdivisions and big businesses has negatively transformed the city.

His statement that “the good intentions of all our programs and services, all geared towards making life easier and comfortable especially for our less fortunate constituents” were meant to create deception among the residents, in his hopes that the Baguio community will remain quiet and will not oppose his programs and policies. Life for the people of Baguio has worsened under his term, especially with the continuous increase of prices and taxes, low wages, unemployement and the destruction of the city’s land and environment. It has been clear that the government has welcomed the entry of big businesses, establishments, condominiums and hotels, dormitories and privatization of public lands to gain profit, while there has been no action to address the need for housing of the urban poor residents in the city.

As we celebrate this year’s Baguio Day and National Heroes Day (August 31) Tongtongan Ti Umili-CPA is calling and challenging the residents and people of Baguio to stand up and be united to immediately urge the present city officials, including the national government of Pres. Noynoy Aquino, to address the immediate needs of the city. It is a must that the development programs and policies of the government are for the city and its people, and not for a few individuals and their patrons.

Development for the People!

Reference:

Tracy Dumalo

Secretary-General