RECOVERING from the effects of the devastation of the 1990 earthquake, Baguio underwent a major facelift. From a quaint city, it slowly embraced cosmopolitan status.

But like any facelift, signs of ageing could not be hidden. Baguio did not age gracefully.

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Of the various problems that confronted this city, traffic, pollution and squatting are among those that lingered.

Various measures have been passed to minimize if not solve these problems, yet as the New Year sets in, the people of Baguio continue to be confronted by these problems, year in and year out.

The problem not only lingers but it also resulted to consequences, which no one had thought would happen.

Losing the ‘clean and green tag’

July 14, 2008 started a major burden not only to city officials but of residents and visitors of this city as well.

The Irisan dumpsite was abruptly shut down when residents of the barangay and in nearby Asin in Tuba town barricaded the entrance to the dumping area.

Since then Baguio has been hauling out garbage to a landfill in Tarlac. When funds run out, tons of garbage are dumped in Irisan dumpsite and will be hauled out again when a budget has been appropriated for the purpose.

In between, garbage is also dumped in creeks, which all lead to the Balili River.

The barricaders were later charged for grave coercion, yet it has never solved the problem of proper garbage disposal, at the least cost.

The problem likewise, saw Baguio losing its hall of fame award as a clean and green city—an award, which, is difficult to maintain.

Aside from mounds of garbage strewn everywhere, the market undoubtedly depicted a microcosm of what Baguio has become.

Dilapidated state

Anyone who has set foot in the public market will attest the place has become a mess. The sari-sari, vegetable, tobacco, carinderia, hangar, meat and fish sections barely meet zoning classifications.

At the hangar area where highland vegetables are delivered, fish and meat products are also sold.

Prohibitions in the market have likewise been defied. Some stalls are either subleased by vendors or rented out as rooms-for-rent. In sections where cooking is barred, the same is also defied and tolerated by market authorities.

Defiance of “regulations” in the market is one of the causes of the fire that hit two sections of the market in the first quarter of 2008 and 2009.

The market, which is made up of highly combustible wood materials was once offered for development and modernization to a real estate developer but this was opposed by some vendors and has reached the courts. The case is pending before the Court of Appeals.

In effect, the contract for the market’s development remains unimplemented after 12 years.

The court as well as some members of the Congress recommended for an out-of-court settlement.

None of the parties affected have come to terms, however.

Pending the court’s decision, the city government has shouldered the repair of sections that were engulfed by fire. But even the rehabilitation was not spared from controversy.

Albeit, the Baguio Market Authority has issued guidelines before vendors are allowed to use their stalls again, vendors lobbied for revisions of these rules.

The City Council allowed the division of some stalls to accommodate vendors, who in the past were granted business permits and were allowed by original lessors to use a space from their stalls.

The circumvention of some rules or accommodation of requests could be one of the reasons why despite the approval of ordinances, which aim to improve public service, many of these are hardly implemented.

No Smoking Ordinance

The No Smoking Ordinance that designates smokers within limits is hardly observed in the City.

Even the ordinance, which bans smoke belching vehicles remain only on paper. Air pollution is still a leading environment concern here.

Councilor Erdolfo Balajadia, the ordinance’s principal author said the responsibility of imposing the ordinance is up to the police.

To date, the health and well being of the public remain at stake because of the lackluster implementation of laws.

Air pollution is also one of the reasons why in the past years, various traffic reduction schemes have been implemented.

Traffic reduction schemes

Baguio’s limited road networks admittedly could not accommodate the increasing number of motor vehicles.

As a solution, reduction of vehicles was implemented through the number coding ordinance.

The ordinance, however, was not enough to contain a growing number of people and vehicles.

In 2008, a rerouting scheme was implemented in the business district.

Recently, loading areas and pedestrian crossings were reduced in the city’s main artery, Session Road.

The scheme gained both positive and negative reviews.

The complaints, however, did not deter the implementation of other schemes geared toward reducing the number of vehicles plying Baguio’s roads.

A northbound terminal is now under construction to accommodate PUVs from La Trinidad and in nearby municipalities. City officials plan to limit entry of southbound and northbound vehicles to the central business district (CBD).

Traffic, among other things, resulted to be a turn off for tourists.

Unimpressive centennial celebration

Not even a centennial celebration was enough to entice the tourists and Baguio residents.

September 1, 2009 would have been a grand celebration, but based on the turn-out of guests and participants to the event, the much ballyhooed 100th birthday failed to impress, even failed to achieve the number of crowds that witness the annual flower festival.

Facing the effects of climate change

Garbage, traffic and a crowded market are issues that the city mayor views as minor challenges compared with the devastating effects of climate change.

Mayor Reinaldo Bautista Jr. said unlike the garbage problem, peace and order, traffic and population, climate change is a problem with effects that is difficult to prevent.

Typhoon Pepeng is proof that aside from Baguio’s isolation, the effects of climate change has far reaching effects, especially on the economy.

Last November, as part of the centennial celebrations, the Advertising Board was supposed to hold the 21st advertising congress here.

At the last minute, it cancelled the congress because of the landslides, road cuts and floods that made traveling strenuous.