Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Memorandum and Scare Tactics (in stereo)






The first photo (the skating rink taken from, well, SM) was taken a few years ago, and the second one just a few months ago. Development?



On the one hand, the controversial Memorandum of Agreement is being downplayed as nothing more than an understanding between two parties, the City Government and the development proponents, to pursue and study the possibility of developing the Athletic Bowl. When the MOA was brought to the attention of the public via online status updates and blog entries, we saw how quickly our “honorables,” not unlike Pilate, washed their hands. One “honorable” declared that the whole thing was suspect and did not follow the proper process – of course he didn’t now this when he signed the endorsement and there was still no public opposition to it. Another “honorable” lucky enough to be absent when the MOA was deliberated upon by the City Council and who has done nothing significant at all for Burnham Park in the last two terms suddenly positioned herself as the “only one taking a valiant stand” against this controversial MOA. Bull. There’s a fine line between taking a “valiant stand” and positioning and scoring PR points. It’s election time, after all. (And in case you haven’t noticed, I always place the word “honorable” in quotation marks).

On the other hand, you have the opposition, some of whom are themselves guilty of twisting facts to suit their own agenda. We don’t need to resort to that, really. The fact that there was an attempt to railroad a development project is enough reason to protest. The fact that it was allegedly endorsed by the City Council in record time is enough reason to create some noise. News reports and op-ed pieces condemning the deal and purposely omitting some of the city government's clarifications on the issue were praised to high heavens, but when the issue was reported by another local daily, howls of protests were heard online calling that paper’s, which happen to be partly owned by the mayor’s father, reporting biased. I read the news report in question and found out that it presented the same facts as what the other papers did, except that equal space was given to both sides of the argument.


Let me reiterate and go on record first: I am against the development of the Athletic Bowl, or Burnham Park as a whole, into something that it is not. The Athletic Bowl is a sports facility. A hotel and commercial complex have no place there. And we don’t need another golf course in this city. Daniel Burnham reserved that largest piece of level-land in Baguio for the masses, and to serve as the lungs of the then future city. Let’s keep it that way. Or develop it that way. I jog there, once or twice a week. My children play there, at least thrice a week. I will do whatever I can to help keep it that way. Or develop it that way.


For while you would want to keep it the way it is, the sight last week of Baguio’s young athletes doing the hundred meter dash barefoot was heartbreaking. When I asked a couple of teachers who were supervising that morning’s competitions about it, I was told that while it‘s true that some of the city’s athletes cannot afford to buy a decent pair of running shoes, others decide to do away with shoes during competition for one’s bare soles provide better traction on the track’s dirt surface. No question about it, the place needs to be rehabilitated.

The good thing about the whole Athletic Bowl brouhaha is that it brought to the fore the current state of our city’s main park. The discussions online have spilled over the perimeter of the Athletic Bowl to the now privatized skating rink to the ongoing fencing project. But the sad thing is that facts are being twisted, blown out of proportion and purposely taken out of context by both sides.

“Are you scared? Are you very scared? Well, you shouldn’t be, because you’re on Scare Tactics!” So goes the line from a reality television show where they create make-believe scenarios to scare “victims” usually set up by a friend, a relative or a colleague.

I turn off the television and go online and there it is: Scare Tactics, in stereo.

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