BAGUIO City Mayor Mauricio Domogan has strongly opposed the idea of closing the country’s Summer Capital from local and foreign visitors because of its worsening traffic situation.
Domogan’s pronouncement came amid a statement from Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Undersecretary Benny Antiporda that Baguio will be the next ecotourism zone that will undergo rehabilitation after Boracay, Palawan and Bohol.
“What we do not like is to generalize the statement that Baguio City is to be rehabilitated, they are already comparing it to what happened in Boracay. Baguio City is entirely different with that of Boracay. There is no need to close Baguio City to vehicular traffic and other visitors just to rehabilitate it. There are those that need to be improved and we are doing what we can to address them,” Domogan said.
In a radio interview earlier, Antiporda cited the worsening traffic problem and geo-hazard concerns as reasons why they are keen in putting the city on the list of areas that the DENR will rehabilitate next.
The environment official added the government will look into traffic concerns in the city especially during the holidays when tourist arrivals increase and vehicle congestion increase too.
However Antipora admitted the road structures in the city is not viable for road expansion.
“Yan po ay isa rin na kailangan mai-address natin at sad to say, dahil din po sa istruktura ng kaniyang bundok eh hindi natin magawa na ika nga'y magkaroon ng tinatawag ng expansion ng kaniyang mga road network," Antiporda said in the interview.
But Domogan expressed the any planned closure of the city will affect the schools and the students who study in Baguio City.
“If we close Baguio City, what will happen to the universities and colleges which hosts thousands of students coming from the entire Philippine Archipelago? What will happen to the patients of Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center (BGHMC) which is a regional hospital who services patients coming not only from the Cordillera region but from Regions 1, 2 and parts of Region 3? I do not think it is a good idea to close Baguio City for rehabilitation,” Domogan said.
The mayor found an ally with Baguio Regreening Movement (BRM), an environment advocacy group.
Erdolfo Balajadia, BRM chairman said, closing the city is not the solution but admitted that drastic solutions needs to be done to solve the problems besetting the city.
“Drastic actions on matters that are dangerously besetting the city like for example the hazardous areas where houses are situated, what will we do about it? Just like houses along the road right of way obstructing traffic already, including the right of way of rivers and creeks, what will we do about that, will we just let it be?” Balajadia said.
Architect Jody Alabanza, the former National Economic Development Authority (Neda) Cordillera director and Regional Development Chairman agrees the planned closure for rehabilitation is not a solution even with Baguio City facing the problem of carrying capacity.
“The closure of Baguio City for rehabilitation is not feasible because for one thing, the people will complain. The Undersecretary does not know the situation here, it us who are for here who knows the situation here because we are on the ground,” Alabanza added.