FVR on Baguio degradation issue

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FORMER President Fidel V. Ramos (FVR) reacted to my column on “Baguio Degradation & DPWH Issues” (MTimes May 31, 2014). His letter dated June 02, 2014 was delivered to the house Thursday last week and he “cordially invited” me to his office “for coffee to clarify the item” that I wrote.

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The background is that the administration of President Corazon C. Aquino was unable to address the ugly deterioration of Baguio in the late 1980s. There was the golden opportunity for the national government to control the unbridled development after the great earthquake of July 1990 that devastated Baguio. However, the government of then President Aquino miserably failed to seize the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do it.

The Aquino Administration had two years (1990-1992) to come out with new development guidelines in a master plan before its term ended, but sadly failed to do so because of its sheer ineptitude or incompetence.

Former President Ramos took exception to what I wrote that “the succeeding administration of President Fidel V. Ramos (1992-1998) likewise failed to control the random growth and haphazard developments in Baguio.” FVR explained what he did was not just for the city of Baguio, but for what he called “Metro Baguio” that includes the municipalities of La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan and Tuba, also referred to as “BLIST.”

I actually already excused former President Ramos for not being able to attend to the problems of Baguio since he, as Chief Executive, had other more important things to do being “occupied with the rehabilitation of Central Luzon after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in June 1991.” Moreover, I added that “probably what was worse was the herculean problem of the Power Crisis in Luzon that his predecessor (Cory) left behind.”

However, FVR emphasized that he did not forget the burgeoning problems of Baguio during his presidency. He told me that he was acutely aware of the degradation of the country’s summer capital since he had been going there in the past decades to notice its deterioration. The former president saw the problems because as Secretary of Defense, he was the concurrent Chairman of the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC).

After the great earthquake that devastated Baguio in July 1990, then NDCC Chairman & Defense Secretary Ramos saw the need to “depopulate Baguio,” especially with the number of students. There are now an estimated 100,000 students, which is roughly about one-fourth or 25 per cent of the population of 400,000 inhabitants.

However, the former President said that it would be “unconstitutional” to restrict the movement of people by not allowing them to transfer to Baguio as students or employees. Perhaps incentives could have been given to the contiguous towns like La Trinidad, the capital of Benguet province, as well as the municipalities of Tuba, Itogon and Sablan in terms public infrastructure, transportation, housing, health and educational facilities.

FVR cited the impressive public works projects done during his term as president, such as the first flyover located at the intersection of Ramon Magsaysay Ave. and Bokawhan Road leading to La Trinidad, the provincial capital, just four kilometers away. This junction was the scene of heavy congestion in the mid-1990s. To further lessen the traffic problem, a monorail was even planned 20 years ago to complement the flyover.

A major road project built during the Ramos administration that has helped ease the traffic congestion is the Pico-Lamtang Road that allows motor vehicles coming from La Union province via Naguilan Road to proceed directly to La Trinidad bypassing Baguio City. This bypass road better known as “Longlong” (a sitio in Barangay Puguis) connects the Benguet-Baguio Road (Naguilan Rd.) to the vast and scenic Trinidad Valley.

The “Long-Long Road” is a beautiful road not known to many. In 2009, I discovered it to escape the traffic at Bokawhan Road going to La Trinidad due to a DPWH project. I heard of it earlier in 2001 when we went to Tam-awan Artist Village where we saw the provincial buses being rerouted there due to some public infra project at Naguilan Road.

(The Long-Long Benguet Road, a continuation of the Lt Tacay Road in Quezon Hill, also connects to Pico-Lamtang Road at Sitio Longlong, Brgy. Puguis that goes down to Buyagan Road that connects to Halsema Highway.)

A significant development in Baguio during the Ramos presidency was the privatization of Camp John Hay in November 1991. This allowed access to myriad Filipinos to the once exclusive American recreational facility and was redeveloped for tourism. John Hay today is a major destination in Baguio where the pine forest has been protected since the American colonial era.

An achievement that FVR is proud of is the improvement of Teachers Camp and making available the lodging of government employees on vacation in Baguio. The National Police Commission (NAPOLCOM) also established a training facility inside the Teachers Camp. Hence, there are now two additional facilities there on top of the existing structures belonging to the Department of Education (DepEd)

Indeed, President Fidel V. Ramos always has the interest of Baguio at heart. I recall the meeting that we had with the First Lady on New Year’s Day of 1993 on our “Greening of Metro Manila” project. He asked me if our group, the Environmental Network Center, Inc. (ENCI), could help Baguio. I told the president that we had (we still have) urban planners, environmental engineers and landscape architects who were ready to help and improve the situation.

In hindsight, I regret pursuing the Metro Manila project to enhance its environment. Perhaps our group and I should have worked on Baguio and environs instead – and perchance we could have MADE A BIG DIFFERENCE!

rbrpilipinas@gmail.com

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12 Comments

  1. i love the scent of pine and burning pine wood. foggy sunrise. when clouds descend in the afternoon. i love the night view of the “lights from the mountains”. i miss baguio pre-1990. sarap maglakad sa gabi. i studied college there. before mas marami pa yata ang jeep sa estudyante. nag aagawan pa sila sa pasahero. mid-90’s traffic na. and how “quickly its environ deteriorated” later. hindi na makahinga ang baguio ngayon. sayang!

  2. I was a college student in Baguio from 1988-95. Camp John Hay was not yet given to oligarchs during those years. It was a beutiful, inexpensive place then for everyone. When I visited Camp John Hay 15 years later, I was very dismayed, that was not the CJH I knew. It was now a private property of the Oligarchs.

  3. william_dave on

    been to Baguio once and i love the place. too bad there’s a lot of eyesores in what used to be pine trees there. i hope they can strike a balance between progress, development and the environment. imagine what it will become 5, 10 years from now.

  4. makabayankami on

    As responsible writer, you should establish your facts first then write an article ,journal or whatever.

    What else are not accurate in your accounts?

    If you are not sure, verify, make a research and confirm the information before publishing your article.

    Responsible writing is the key word to elicit meaningful discussion.

  5. Typo error. Tenth paragraph, 4th-5th lines. It should be the “Benguet-Bauang Road”and NOT the “Benguet-Baguio Road.” Bauang is the town in La Union that is the end of of Naguilan Road and connects to the MacArthur Highway (Manila North Road) going up North to the Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte and Abra and South (going to Manila) down to Pangasinan, Tarlac, Pampanga and Bulacan.

  6. makabayankami on

    i think FVR should not excuse himself to the current deterioration of baguio city.He can claim many achievements but most of these is insignificant. If they think strategically, the writer should have been highlighted the greatness of baguio development rather the negatives of it.FVR and his alalays are suppose to think strategically and prioritize project that will create impact and the present and future development of Baguio. So Mr. FVR, please own your shortcoming so.

    And for writer, a mere cup of coffee changes your opinion. Two(2) shows about your capability and credibility.
    1. You made writing without any strong basis, mababaw pala and pag-iisip mo.
    2. A Cup of coffee changes your position, corruptible ka pala.

    As you can see, paano and bansa natin kung ganito ang mga namumuno, including press.

    • FVR did NOT Excuse himself. I “excused ” him for reasons cited in the column. FVR explained what he did during his presidency for Metro Baguio during his term. He is entitled to give his side on the matter. it is a good thing that a former president reads the columns of national newspapers and would bother to elucidate on the subject.

      A problem in our country are readers who cannot even comprehend a simple article and will make judgement out of sheer ignorance. Worse, are puerile pronouncements like a cup of coffee can change a columnist’s position and therefore ‘corruptible. Pathetic ignorance. Worst, readers who cannot even write in straight English !

  7. Pete Gabriel on

    As a Baguio born and raised, I object to what you said that Camp John Hay is a once an exclusive American recreation facility. On the contrary when it was a US Air Force base, everyone has access to Camp John Hay. John Hay was orderly, and everyone obey the rules. The Americans have kept the place as pristine as when they started building the base in the early 1900’s. Look at John Hay today, it has become a playground for the rich elites, and the Juan de la Cruz has become marginalized. They are looking at the rich people with their shiny expensive cars and all the things that they can buy with their money. So you see, John Hay was better when the US Air Force were running the show.

    • There is no question that Camp John Hay was better managed under the Americans. Same story for Clark Air Base ,Subic Naval Base and Wallace Base in Poro Point in San Fernando, La Union . Indeed, John Hay has sadly deteriorated, especially in the past four years under the Aquino administration. the government’s CJHDC cannot even pave Scout Hill.

    • I recall in the mid- 60s and 70s that our family had to go with our uncle based in Baguio who has a pass that allowed us to go inside.The only brother of our mother was the Fiscal ( now called Chief Prodsecutor”) of Baguio. This before he was appointed Judge of the Court of First Instance (now Regional Trial Court or RTC) I do not recall the situation in 1980s. However, in the 1990s, Filipinos and foreigners alike have access to gain entry to the once exclusive Camp John Hay after the Americans left in 1990.

  8. Samuel Santos on

    Sad to say, the “sheer ineptitude or incompetence” of the Cory administration continues to pervade in the present PNoy presidency.