Issue of May 21, 2017

Panagbenga Flower Festival
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The often-repeated statement that the construction of condominiums and other similar high-rise buildings in Baguio must spread to outlying Benguet towns following the 1990 quake that toppled several buildings in the Summer Capital must now be seriously considered.

For one, this city with a land area of 57.5 square kilometers has reached its maximum carrying capacity, as its population density of more than 5,000 people per square kilometer is 18 times higher than the national average. Ideally, the number of people in an urban area is 1,000 residents per sq. km.

But for years now, construction in almost every nook and cranny of Baguio is evident despite efforts from the government and private sectors to convince investors, particularly in the real estate, to locate areas in Benguet to develop as envisioned in the BLISTT conceptual development framework.

It’s not that stakeholders no longer want businesses for the city; they merely want Baguio to have a respite from the nightmares brought about by the almost unregulated construction of multi-level structures. Aside from congestion, the non-stop construction is taking toll on the city’s already fragile environment, not to mention the dangers these pose to lives and properties.

The unfortunate incident involving a condominium project along Gibraltar Road that left portions of a critical road collapsing is just one of the many occasions that must have made the public realize that while development brings income opportunities for the city and its residents, these could not compensate the damage and public inconveniences that overdevelopment is bringing to the city.

The incident along Gibraltar Road did not happen overnight. Several times in the past, concerned residents have brought the problem to concerned agencies and some Baguio officials. Their fears of a disaster came true and the blame can only point to one thing: lack of monitoring – or the total absence of it – by the offices that allowed the construction to push through.

It takes strong political will of Baguio officials to call upon concerned agencies to not just step up their monitoring activities but more importantly to urge these agencies to impose all sanctions if only to set a precedent in a bid to prevent similar incidents from happening or to avert the impending disasters that are waiting to happen in other areas in Baguio where high-rise buildings are also being constructed.

At these times, there is a need for proactive measures to be put in place. Investigating or acting only when disasters happen should already be a thing of the past, especially for a city that experienced a massive loss in lives and properties due to collapsed buildings when it was devastated by a killer quake in 1990.

We recognize city lawmakers’ efforts in regulating building constructions by imposing a limit to the number of stories that must be put up, among other legislations. This, however, has been subjected to circumventions by some developers who found a way to build their structures several levels underground to make it appear they have complied with the limit.

It’s about time Baguio lawmakers seriously consider imposing a moratorium on the construction of high-rise buildings that have contributed to the dwindling forest covers and green patches in the city over the past decades.

For as long as building of mega structures continue to be concentrated in this mountain resort, the vision to balance development and spread socio-economic opportunities in BLISTT will remain in the drawing board while our neighboring towns take a back seat as they witness how Baguio faces an uphill bid to bring back its grandeur threatened by overdevelopment and urban sprawl.



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