Revisiting the BLISTT plan for the nth time

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By Roberto A. Capili

Real Estate Updates

Sunday, March 23, 2014


THE BLISTT (Baguio-La Trinidad-Itogon-Sablan-Tuba-Tublay) Plan is hugging again the headline (Sun.Star Baguio March 10, 2014), with things starting to look up (again?). I don’t want to be pessimistic, but I guess I have tackled this article in my past columns way back 2010 or about four years ago. Anyway, I guess we all have to pin our hope, that this time, BLISTT as a development concept will really start hitting the ground. As my humble share in creating awareness on the issue, allow me to hit back on the past article on the topic entitled: Jumpstarting BLISTT as development tool.

By the year 2020, our planners say, BLISTT (which stands for Baguio-La Trinidad- Itogon-Sablan-Tuba-Tublay) will be inhabited by about 927,000 to 1,628,000 persons based on a variety of low to high estimates. This is about 2 to 2 1/2 times our present population of 612,000. With the population increase, the area needed for housing will be anywhere between a low of 1,952 hectares to a high of 3,875 hectares. Apart from housing, land is also required for work, schools, hospitals, markets, roads and urban services.

Concomitant to population increase coupled with bigger land requirements will be undue pressure spawned on Water Supply, Drainage, Sewage, Solid Waste Disposal, Electricity and Power and the Environment. At present, only three-quarters of household are served by the Water District distribution system in Baguio. Water supply is not constant. Many receive water only 4 days per week or less. Others have to rely on expensive water delivery services. The situation outside of Baguio may even be more difficult considering that many rural areas are not served by any organized and established water distribution system.

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Big increase in population makes water availability a worse problem. Ground water is being used faster than it can be replaced. Pollution of water sources is increasing. Squatting of informal settlers on watershed worsens this problem every year. Unaccounted water losses in the system stands at around 30%.

Present drainage system cannot deal with the volume of run-off during heavy rains. A number of projects have commenced or are planned to reduce the flooding in the centre of Baguio and in the City Camp lagoon area, among other areas. The operations at the existing sewage system are presently under further study and evaluation. Sewage in
Baguio flows down with uncontrolled seepages and overflows through Balili River in La Trinidad, despite the operation of the Baguio Sewer Treatment Plant it Sanitary Camp in Baguio' The soil waste disposal system is inadequate and unhealthy. Most of the rubbish is dumped down hillsides or in rivers and canals, causing further problems. Water courses are polluted because existing sewerage and solid waste disposal systems are not in full place.

Electrical distribution system will have to be expanded and improved. There is a danger that a worsening of these environmental degradations will mean that tourists, scholars, businessmen and other visitors will no longer find Baguio and its surrounds attractive. Protection of the environment and sustainable development in very critical and indispensable to the BLISTT growth area.

This is what our newly-elected officials, both new and incumbent, in the BLISTT Interim structure are faced with. The end result is to come up with a revised comprehensive master plan to direct and organize further growth and means of servicing the population. In short, the common vision is to make Baguio and its close environs a better place in the coming years. This is the essence of the BLISTT concept. For a plan to be successfully implemented, two important ingredients stand out. One, it must identify the needs and problems of the affected inhabitants, their acceptance and full support of such plan. Secondly, it must have a built-in workable mechanism for its implementation. It would be a waste of time and effort notwithstanding the cost, if these conditions cannot be met.

Although government had already taken the lead on the BLISTT project, we feel that public consultations are still a step in the right direction. However, it is not and cannot just be the avenue to gather consensus among the people. The greater task is to seek wider participation and involvement in the consultations and consensus building processes. On the short term, one way of facilitating the process is to organize a separate government and non-government/ sectoral consultations and request the participants to conduct their own consultation with their constituents. Results and feedbacks from these various consultations and consensus building fora, can then be collated, finalized and submitted to the BLISTT Interim Group and its designated acting secretariat.

The second consideration requires further study as to how the BLISTT plan can be formalized and placed in motion. One option requires a BLISTT Authority be established to oversee the over-all project implementation. This set-up has the advantage if seen in a bigger context where projects might infringe on inter-jurisdictional authorities, administrative delineations and geographical boundaries for effective implementation. This option finds legal justification under the Local Government Code of 1991 (RA 7160) which says: "Local government units may group themselves, consolidate or coordinate their efforts, services and resources for purposes of commonly beneficial to them {Sec. 3, par. f.)." We shall be discussing more of the proposed administrative set-up in our future articles as our humble share in contributing our input. Suffice to say that the proposed BLISTT Authority must be an independent entity, free from political influences and the organization run by professional and career-service managers and personnel.

We laud the initiative of the Baguio Centennial Commission through its chairman, Dr. Virgilio C. Bautista, the newly elected congressmen for Baguio and Benguet Reps. Bernardo Vergara and Ronald Cosalan, Benguet Province Governor Nestor Fongwan together with the six reelected and newly-elected mayors and vice-mayors of the BLISTT
area for the idea of utilizing their collective efforts into giving flesh towards the realization of the desired growth and development.

The prevailing sentiment during their initial group gathering recently made in the presence of NEDA through Director Juan Ngalob, who gave a briefing for the conference participants on the status of BLISTT, was for all of the LGU'S concerned to help one another to uphold the viability of the BLISTT Development Community.

Planning and implementing the BLISTT project must not be left to chance. Forward planning and judicious execution of the agreed plans and programs as it affects the very lives of each inhabitants now and in the future cannot be gambled with. And this is what we can see and is now being done in the case of the BLISTT Interim Group exercise. Let us all give our unwavering support.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on March 24, 2014.

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