KUDOS to Mayor Benjamin Magalong for his exemplary handling the pandemic in his jurisdiction. This mirrors in whole his 15-point agenda, which can be summed up to just one theme - the good governance of Baguio's carrying capacity.
Carrying capacity is defined as the size of the population that can be supported indefinitely upon the available resources and services of supporting natural, social, human and built capital.
Let's look at the numbers.
The city's land area measures about 5,700 hectares, a jurisdiction probably much lesser than when the Americans commissioned in 1909 Daniel Burnham to plan and develop a garden city for 25,000 to 30,000 people to serve as a recreation area for American soldiers, their families, including some Filipino workers. The plan may or may not have reckoned the indigenous people that originally inhabited the area and its environs.
Baguio's development made it as the summer capital of the Philippines and the center of education of the region and immediate provinces. As of today, its population is estimated to be at around 374,000. It's a wrong notion that the population, including the tourists and students, can still sustainably live in the total land area without factoring in the bioproductive areas of the city.
Fortunately, Baguio still has 467.5 hectares (8.1% of the total land area) of old growth pine forest that serves as one its sources of water; 1,137.5 hectares (19.8%) of production pines; and 122.5 hectares (2.1%) of brushlands. The remaining 4,021 hectares (70%) comprise the developed portion of the city.
Given these figures, we can almost calculate Baguio's tipping point triggered by unsustainable development. And this is where we can rely on Mayor Magalong's leadership. As responsible citizens we can help him, in our own little way, through the following:
1. Join the city government in its tree planting activities. We should also plant trees in our own areas;
2. Obey the rules of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act by dutifully segregating waste;
3. Compost your biodegradable waste, which comprises about 50% of your total waste. Use the compost to plant vegetables;
4. Avoid buying products that are packed in non-biodegradable and non-recyclable packaging materials;
5. Avoid single-use plastic bags. Always bring your re-usable grocery bags;
6. Conserve water and harvest rain water;
7. Walk over short distances;
8. Always plan your trips;
9. Conserve electricity; and
10. Do not waste food. (Rene Pineda Jr.)
Rene D. Pineda Jr., a long-time member of the EcoWaste Coalition, is president of the Partnership for Clean Air (PCA) and the Consumer Rights for Safe Food (CRSF).