Organized events pay-A A +A
By JM Agreda
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
BAGUIO Mayor Mauricio Domogan and park officials recently clarified fees imposed on certain activities conducted in Burnham Park that includes organized exercise activities and commercial photo and video shoots.
Domogan belied rumors circulating in social networking sites the city is poised into privatizing the park as it remains free for the public to use.
The mayor said the City Government encourages park goers to take pictures and conduct physical exercises as it helps in boosting tourism and the physical well-being of residents.
He said discipline should be imposed on park goers so park facilities such as gardens and the newly installed fountains will not be destroyed considering the city has been using millions of tax payers’ money to build and maintain these facilities.
This as he stressed the City Government will only enforce certain regulatory fees for those who use portions of the park for commercial purposes and organized activities to cover maintenance expenses.
Maintenance covers security services, park management which includes cleaning and upkeep of gardens, payments of electricity and water bills among other expenses.
City Environment and Parks Management Officer Cordelia Lacsamana said the City Government operates Burnham Park for the past four years after it was turned over to the city by the Philippine Tourism Authority back in 2009.
Since then, Lacsamana said with Burnham Park alone, the city has been spending P40 million per year to cover park maintenance such as electricity, garden maintenance, security, cleaning expenses while it only raises P8 million per year from various concessions that include lease of restaurants, boat and bike rentals and collections from roving accredited vendors inside the park.
"The City Government has raised rent of its concessionaires in past years but this is not enough to balance expenses incurred for park maintenance," she said.
While the city has been tolerating vending activities inside the park in past years, she said they have to strictly enforce roving vending only to accredited vendors to ensure a clean and orderly park.
Baguio Parks Management officer Ruben Cervantes said they are only implementing these strict rules as part of the city’s commitment to the Baguio-Boracay Technical Working Group to maintain order in Baguio’s show windows that include the public market and parks.
In Burnham Park's Rose Garden, for example, Cervantes said they have been strictly cordoning fountains as these were previously used by vagrants in taking baths while signs preventing the picking of flowers and stepping on the grass are being implemented by their office to ensure that facilities and gardens will remain well-kept.
Regulatory fees only
Lacsamana further explained they are implementing the regulations that have been in place since 1983 but was never imposed which resulted to the mushrooming of illegal vendors and other unregulated park activities.
For organized physical exercises, she said the city government charges each group P100 per hour for use of designated areas like Jose Abad Santos Drive, Juan Luna Drive and the biking lane for exercises.
Other areas such as Rose Garden, garden plots and the grass field should not be used for organized group physical exercises as this would destroy the park’s gardens and facilities, she stressed.
"We just want to place order in the park every morning considering there are already nine groups conducting group physical exercises with music inside Burnham Park," she said.
Without the needed order and zoning of these groups, the peaceful and quiet atmosphere experienced by park goers will be disturbed by sounds from blaring speakers of exercise groups. She said this would further result to “lack of order and chaos among participants as well as interfere and affect park visitors who also want equitable use of portions of the park,” the CEPMO chief added.
The mayor said a dialogue with exercise organizers was conducted by his office together with the City Environment Parks Management Office with all the nine organized exercise groups agreeing to pay the use of area fee.
This according to Lacsamana is the reason why their office cannot understand why these groups are now complaining when they earlier agreed to pay for the space they are using inside the park.
However, she said they are open for another dialogue with exercise organizers if only to pacify them and explain fully the park regulations.
She further stressed commercial photo and video shoots that will be using portions inside Burnham Park also need to be regulated as these activities could also restrict visitors from using portions of the park.
Meanwhile, the CEPMO chief stressed they have implemented last week a spill over pay parking on roadsides within Burnham Park “on experimental basis only.”
This she said was approved by the city’s Traffic and Transport Management Committee and backed by Administrative Order 128 issued by the city mayor.
The spillover parking covers Jose Abad Santos Drive, Lake Drive and the side streets of Burnham Park’s picnic grove.
Lacsamana stressed traffic experiments are being conducted by the city to gauge if the pay parking would decongest these areas from vehicles who often park in the area from the entire day without paying the city anything despite the city providing lighting as well as security services for their vehicles.
She also added tourists who would want to visit Bunham Park often have a hard time looking for parking spaces as vehicles are occupying these streets as free parking space for the rest of the day without contributing anything for park maintenance.
The CEPMO currently maintains a P20 experimental pay parking fee for the first hour and additional P10 for the succeeding hour on Burnham Park’s side streets.
The city mayor, on the other hand, welcomed suggestions from residents on how these regulations will be implemented in Burnham Park through formal letters and through continuing dialogue at City Hall rather than post anything on social media that are often misconstrued by the public.
He also encouraged his critics to help in beautifying the city instead of destroying its image as a top tourist destination as his administration implements regulations to safeguard its show windows such as the Baguio public market and Burnham Park.
“We cannot do everything to improve these parks in an instant that is why we are asking for everybody’s cooperation so that we can revive the city’s parks and public market and sustain the city’s economic growth,” he said.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on October 16, 2013.