City Government pushes Burnham parking; opposition steady

FIRM opposition has faced plans to prepare a parking structure at Burnham Park.

Councilor Mylen Yaranon has spoken on her opposition to any structure at the Burnham Park, saying: "No structures on parks, especially for Burnham Park, as a Heritage Park. The council approved and supports House Bill of Mark Go declaring it as a Heritage Park. Let us keep our parks as open spaces, no built-up structures in the park."

Yaranon said the Technical Working Group for the Rehabilitation of Burnham Park prioritized the importance of Burnham Park as a heritage park.

The Baguio City Council, through a resolution, supports the House Bill of Representative Mark Go, declaring Burnham Park as a heritage park.

Last week, Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong requested concerned offices of the local government, particularly the City Environment and Parks Management Office (Cepmo) and the City Administrator's Office, to work out the requirements that will pave the way for the construction of the long overdue multi-level parking structure within the park.

Magalong said the City will be following the footsteps of Manila local governments that are now putting up their own multi-level parking structures operated by the concerned cities as income-generating endeavors.

"I would rather support pedestrianization, use of bicycle and public transportation for mobility. Private cars and buses can be provided parking somewhere else, not within the park. Public transportation can have a Hop on and Hop off designated areas at the perimeter of the park, but not a terminal," Yaranon said.

People's group Tongtongan Ti Umili-Cordillera Peoples Alliance (TTU CPA) expressed concern on the City's efforts to put up a parking structure in Burnham Park.

"The opposition on this proposal is widespread and clearly valid. More than its adverse effects on the park's heritage value and - on a broader level - the city's environment, we see no good reason as to why a multi-level parking structure should be built in the park especially in this pandemic," the group said.

In a statement, Magalong said the proposal of the local government to put up a multi-level parking building within the feasible portion of Burnham Park was already approved in principle by concerned authorities and the City is simply awaiting the appropriate document for the immediate prosecution of the project.

He said the City has to initially use the available funds for construction of the multi-level parking structure in Burnham Park devoted for vehicles of park goers.

"Instead of pressing for private developers to enter the city under the guise of rehabilitation, the City Government should instead focus on formulating sustainable rehabilitative and relieving solutions that is for the people and by the people," he said.

The TTU CPA affirmed support to any development initiative of the City "as long as it is dictated by the very people that is keeping it alive, its citizens."

The TTU-CPA, in a statement, suggested: "We earnestly suggest to the City Government that more than thinking of 'income-generating' opportunities for the city through pay parking and the desecration of our public spaces like Burnham Park and the Public Market, and enforcing transportation 'solutions' without public consultation, the good Mayor and his honchos should think of instead how to address the prevailing joblessness and loss of livelihood of his constituents."

The group lamented: "We have yet to see concrete studies that will justify the building of a multi-level parking in one of the remaining green spaces in the city. Will it fix traffic and congestion? Will it reduce pollution levels in downtown Baguio? We have yet to see studies on these aspects. Otherwise, we see it as yet another plan for corporate entities to stake their claim in our public spaces."

Lawyer Rhenan Diwas, head of City Environment and Parks Management Office, said the final site of the multi-level parking structure has yet to be determined although what seems to prevail is at the former site of the old city auditorium.

Diwas said there is some P112 million accumulated savings from the projects that were supposed to be implemented in the park, which is now available for the put--up of the proposed multi-level parking structure that will help in addressing the parking needs of vehicle owners who frequent the park and other destinations in the central business district area.

"As for us who have opposed this proposal time and time again, we have presented the reasons why the putting up of such structure in Burnham Park is unreasonable and inappropriate. The broad opposition even presented alternatives to the City's proposal: a smarter roads concept to ease traffic and congestion, parking structures outside downtown Baguio among many others; however, it seems like these have all fallen to deaf ears," the TTU-CPA statement read.


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