A GROUP has joined opposition for the development of the public market in Baguio City by mall giants.
The Baguio Heritage Foundation Incorporated (BHFI), in a statement, has appealed to the City Government to keep the public market free from malls.
Adelaida Lim, chairperson of the BHFI, said they oppose the proposed development of the Baguio market into a multi-story mall and appealed to the City Government to “not turn this Baguio icon into a mall.”
Heritage advocates explained the market was formally established as the Baguio City Public Market in 1913 and as such, is considered heritage and a historical site. It became the center of trade of Kafagway even before Baguio became a chartered city.
“It is one of our tourist attractions and is considered as the show window of the city. Tourists and residents go to our market to experience the joy of shopping in an open atmosphere. Our Baguio market should prioritize occupancy by Baguio merchants and not be under the monopoly of giant corporations, one of which already displaced many Baguio businesses and family entrepreneurs," Lim said.
Lim added that another mall by any other name would be a betrayal to its Baguio citizens, adding that another mall in an already congested area will lose the highland natural character of Baguio City as envisioned by Daniel Burnham.
"Let us maintain the cultural character of the market and create district markets thereby decongesting Baguio’s market area. Proper ethnic landscaping will make our market a historic site, a strolling market park, linked to Burnham Park by nature-induced pathways,” Lim said.
The BHFI is composed of Dr. Julie Cabato, Dr. Virgilo Bautista, Architect Joseph Alabanza, Victor Agcaoili, June Prill Brett, Ronaldo Paraan, Monin Navarro and Raymundo Rovillos.
Original proponent Status awarding
As opposition mounts, the Original Proponent Status (OPS) for the city market project will be awarded to either SM Prime Holdings or Robinsons Land Corporation after deliberation by the Public-Private Partnership for the People Initiative Selection Committee (P4-SC).
City Administrator Bonifacio Dela Peña clarified the awarding of the OPS does not mean the development of the market will be undertaken by the corporation selected. Instead, it will "pave the way" for more proposals to ensue when the proposal is challenged by the public.
Dela Peña disclosed only SM Prime Holdings and Robinsons Land Corporation qualified among the three applicants for the market rehabilitation project during the pre-selection stage. The Baguio Market Vendors Association (Bamarva), which was the third applicant, failed to complete all requirements which lead to its disqualification.
Dela Peña added the original proponent and the City Government will then negotiate on the terms and conditions for the project in regard to its technical and financial aspects, with the negotiation stage carried out for one and a half months.
“Sa stage na ito, maririnig ang boses ng both parties. Kapag hindi nagkatugma ang gusto ng both parties, the project is considered a failure. We will no longer carry on with it,” Dela Peña said.
During the Swiss challenge, the P4 Selection Committee will invite other proponents to submit their proposals to challenge the proposal of the original proponent.
The OPS holder, however, can still match the offer of the best challenger.
Dela Peña revealed there are more or less 15 private firms signifying their intention to participate in the Swiss challenge.
Lawyer Zosimo Abratique, Bamarva president, said they are not giving up hope to bid for the public market and are set to submit anew complete papers of the group to fulfill documentary requirements set by the city.
“We also want it modernized and we believe we have the capacity. The integrity of Baguio City is in that market. That is our identity. We are not Makati nor BGC. If we were, then we should have malls left and right,” he said.
Abratique said the association proposal maintains the facets that make the market truly for the city and for the vendors, careful not to put high-rise structures in the plans but maintaining a profit for the city as well as a livelihood for the vendor stakeholders.
Abratique noted that if the association fails in its bid, a comprehensive list of products sold by vendors will be noted to keep with the promise of the City Government that no direct competition will be faced by vendors from whoever proponent will be chosen.
Products ranging from wet, dry goods, groceries and arts and crafts will be given and reminded. There is also a thriving food section at the market, which is also being protected by the association to be able to keep the livelihood of city stakeholders. (With a report from Baguio City Public Information Office)