The heat and humidity of Metro Manila has been most oppressive over the past four weeks this May. This is probably the hottest summer with temperatures hitting close to 40 degrees centigrade and with relative humidity of over 80 percent.
Thus, my family and I sought some respite from the scorching heat in the metropolis and went up to Baguio. The altitude of 5,000 feet above sea level, high up in the Cordillera Mountains with the pine trees (or whatever is left of it) makes a lot of difference.
In spite of the degradation of Baguio over the last two decades, we still visit this mountain resort especially since 2009. There was an opportunity for the national government to address the issue of haphazard development after the great earthquake of July 1990 that devastated Baguio and other cities of Luzon.
However, the government of then President Corozon C. Aquino was unable to seize the once in a lifetime opportunity to do it. The Aquino Administration had two years to come out with new Developement Guidelines in a Master Plan before its term ended, but it sadly failed to do so because of its ineptitude or incompetence.
The succeeding administration of President Fidel V. Ramos (1992-1998) likewise failed to control the random growth and haphazard developments in Baguio. Perhaps President Ramos got occupied with the rehabilitation of Central Luzon after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in June 1991. Probably what was worse was the herculear problem of the Power Crisis in Luzon that his predecessor (Cory) left behind.
`Hence, the apparent deterioration of Baguio has become most evident over the past 10 years. This period covers six years of the administration of President Gloria M. Arroyo and four ao far of Benigno S. Aquino III, respectively. Over the past decade, we have often heard the same familiar refrain of how Baguio is no longer what it used to be.
It was the great American architect and urban planner Daniel Burnham who drew the Master Plan of Baguio a century ago. Baguio then only had 20,000 people. Today, there are 400,000 residents here plus another 300,000 denizens living in the contiguous towns of Tuba, Itogon and La Trinidad.
More than 20 years ago in the late 1980s, the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) press release said it was going to prepare a Master Plan for a Metropolitan or Metro Baguio. However, nothing has been heard of NEDA’s Metro Baguio Master Plan ever since.
Pathetic Arroyo presidency performance
In the last four years under the Arroyo Administration vitually nothing was done to improve the situation in Baguio in terms of controlling the construction there. The presidency of PNoy has also failed to address the enviromental issues, such as the smoke -belching public utility jeepneys (PUJs), UV Expresses, delivery vans and trucks. It is as if there is no national government fuctioning!
Likewise, the incumbent administration has hardly introduced any enhancement to the environment. The improvements of Burnham Park were done by the city government and the private sector upon the initiative of the Church (impressive perimeter fence) and the citizenry. It is difficult to see projects of the national government that are appreciated by both the residents of “Metro” Baguio and tourists alike.
With the remaining two years of President B. S. Aquino, it is not realistic to expect any change in his “leadership.” The son of Ninoy and Cory Aquino simply lacks the competence to do the job of a real Chief Executive. However, we all believe in miracles, so there is a chance no matter how slim or remote that PNoy will do something for the counrty’s summer capital.
DPWH’s anomalous projects
The greatest “accomplishment” of the Aquino presidency in Baguio and environs over the past four years are the despicable public infrastructure projects of the Department of Public Works & Highways (DPWH). Since 2011 up to the present, DPWH has shamelessly demolished good roads and bridges from Kennon Road and Loakan Road to the Marcos Highway and Ferguson Road that were still in good condition.
In late April, I showed to ABS-CBN Baguio the good roads and bridges along Ferguson Road that were destroyed by DPWH only to be concreted again. DPWH has NO mercy: they did not spare the short Ferguson Bridge No. 3, which only has the length of 10 meters. What should only take two- three months to build took almost one year for them to finish.
Last year, DPWH brazenly demolished the section of Kennon Road at Camp 3 in Tuba that was still well-paved with asphalt. This year, DPWH is doing the same at Camp 6 in Baguio that is now being concreted. But as always, what makes matters worse is that DPWH favors dubious contractors who cannot even do their work right and greatly inconvenience motorists. The reblocking project at Camp 6 has been on-going for at least two months now and it looks like it would take them another two months to finish their work.
The tradegy of the public infra projects in Baguio and environs is that DPWH would not undertake road maintenance work that cost much less and easy to do. Instead of doing asphalt-overlay in national roads that have deteriorated (scalling), they would prefer the more expensive “reblocking” that they refer to as “rehabilitation” and/or “upgrading.” A good example is the “Upgrading of the Ambiong – Lubas – Tawang Road leading to Trinidad Valley” that costs P44,617,343.00 and was awarded to Alcel Construction.
Daan na Matuwid na Patungo sa Bangin! (Straight Path to the Ravine!)