The closing of Boracay and its subsequent opening after rehabilitation has been a cautionary tale and a model for some tourist destination like Manila Bay, an island off Basilan, and now the Summer Capital, Baguio.
City Mayor Benjamin Magalong said that plans are being drawn up for the city’s Boracay-like rehabilitation led by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG). It specifically involves the passing of a one-year moratorium on putting up new buildings as well as cutting pine trees, which would be implemented through an executive order.
Out of the city’s 5,700-ha area, only 24 percent remains to be covered with pine trees—all 2.5 million of it. This is due to the construction of new buildings and commercial spaces, which frequently skirt zoning regulations, as well as consultations with the local water district for possibilities of potable water contamination.
And just like the famed beach destination in Aklan, sewage is the primary priority of the planned repairs and upgrades in the city of Baguio. This is because only 2,400 households are connected to the only treatment plant, which is also already deteriorating having been built in the ’90s.
The local government speculates that the improper sewage system most households are connected to is polluting the Bued and Balili rivers in the city’s outskirts. They are targetting a new sewage system which would cost the government P500 million and effectively manage 90,000 households’ sewage discharge.
It doesn’t help either that the city’s population continues to grow because of the influx of tourists, out-of-town workers, students, and businessmen.
Mayor Magalong, however, clarified that unlike the restrictive closing of Boracay for six months, their planned rehabilitation will not hinder these tourists and transient residents from entering the city especially since it’s a gateway to Cordillera towns like Sagada.
This is also not the first time that Baguio will undergo rehabilitation. the very occasion where their mayor announced this plan was a commemoration of the 29th anniversary of a 7.7 magnitude earthquake that hit the city in Jul. 16, 1990, which took the city several months to recover from.
According to a report by the Inquirer, Baguio was also severely damaged in 1945 because of World War II.
Header photo courtesy of Richard Balonglong/Inquirer
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Writer: CHRISTIAN SAN JOSE