NOW we're talking.

If not for the vigilance of the concerned citizens of Baguio, the memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the city and Korean investors on the rehabilitation of the Athletic Bowl in Burnham Park would have pushed through "right under our noses."

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With the outcry and protests against the realization of the MOA, it simply indicates that democracy is at work here. The way it's supposed to be... a system of the people... by the people... and for the people.

I for one do hope that the vigilance of locals would not end here. What transpired, which resulted to the voiding of the supposed MOA, should actually encourage citizens to be more alert, concerned, and active in guarding the interest of the public.

The latest development on the issue I believe proves the type of strength and power, which the people truly yield in a democracy. A principle engrained in our constitution.

Imagine what may have happened if the MOA pushed through. With so many "gray areas," I myself couldn't clearly fathom the consequences or benefits of the supposed rehabilitation and BOT development scheme of the Athletic Bowl.

Here are a few of these so-called "gray areas" which were voiced by concerned citizens who requested anonymity:

Would the development mean that the locality would have to pay for the use of the facilities at the Bowl for city sponsored and related events?

Would the use of the outdoor facilities at the Athletic Bowl still be open and free for our citizens and youth who do not have the financial means to rent gyms, courts... and the like?

Wouldn't the supposed development be disadvantageous for common citizens of Baguio who despite being sports enthusiasts, might not be able to afford fees for the use of the facilities once under the management of aliens?

Wouldn't the supposed development result to the athletic bowl being transformed to a sports complex, which might only cater to the "elite" and "favored patrons"?

Is there any truth to the rumor that the supposed investors intended to build a hotel within the area? Hotel for who? Patrons or athletes?

If the MOA pushed through, how much would the city be actually making in terms of lease or rent "per square meter" of the area? How much would the proposed figure actually boil-down to...PhP__?___ per square meter, per month? Compute for yourselves and you would be surprised if not "shocked" with how "microscopic" the figure would be.

The truth is there may be more of these "gray areas" related to the voided MOA; however those mentioned may suffice to stress the point.

Well naturally, we locals would love to see the development and rehabilitation of the area.

Who wouldn't? However, transparency and public interest as a priority is a must on undertakings such as this.

My inclinations do acknowledge the opinion of a friend and senior of mine who happens to be a reputable lawyer and dean of a university in the city when he said, "We cannot just sweep the issue under the rug. The involved city officials must still be held accountable for entering into a deal without the necessary legal processes of public consultation and public hearing."

Another quotable comment on the matter which further stresses the need for public vigilance on any development affecting the citizenry states: "still, the fact that this (controversial MOA) happened must be a cause for alarm because this kind of questionable deal did not happen just once. There was the controversial car plan and the Jadewell fiasco."

The bottomline: "Vigilance of the public is definitely needed to ensure that public interest is genuinely prioritized and guarded."


Baguio for sale

So with the athletic bowl on its last legs, city officials saw it fit to hastily set forward a deal with a foreign investor that at first could bring life back to the bowl.

Rumors surfaced that the bowl would be developed into a mini driving range, mall and hotel.

How could the bowl be improved if all these other things were going into it? Further still where are the interests of the athletes who use the bowl on a daily basis? Whose interests are these "outside" investors looking after? It's really all about money. Thankfully this deal and plan was blocked and trashed.

Is the only way to save our much loved landmarks is to settle with investment plans with foreign investors making "under-the-table" handshakes. With good intentions in mind at first but in the long run these businessmen are just that, businessmen! All good businessmen only look for one thing - and that is the MONEY! This is no lie, when anyone sets out into business their main goal is to make money.

Is it so hard to believe our city officials who we swear into office would start auctioning off the land we all share and use every day? It is as if these officials have put classifieds out for land for sale or lease to the highest bidder to make their side bets with the city and its citizens losing out in the long run. They may very well just give the keys to the city to "outsiders" right under our noses.

Submitted by Wren Cale; a concerned citizen

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