Monday, January 11, 2010

Misdirected Initiative of Energetic Lumbermen

The news was certainly enough to make your blood boil: the Baguio Athletic Bowl being rented out for a measly 100k a month to a Korean investor who will put up, as alleged in several blog entries, among other things, the following in the area: a commercial complex, a hotel and a golf course.

I wanted to get it straight from the horse’s mouth, so I made it a point to attend the next morning’s “Ugnayan” with the City Mayor. The mayor began the morning's session with an update of what has happened in the last days of 2009 and the first few days of the New Year, and towards the end he attempted to shed light on the Baguio Athletic Bowl issue.

There is a proposal to develop the Baguio Athletic Bowl, he said, and yes, the main proponent is a Korean national. And yes, the proposal is for a 25-year lease. And although halfway though the press con I was already lost in semantics and drowning in government-ese, what I understood from the Mayor’s statements was that the MOA that was signed between him and the proponents was only meant to get the ball rolling, pursue/study the proposal, which he said was only the first step (Grade One) in getting anything done at all.

And as to the details of the proposed development, there is simply none yet, but he did venture some conjectures as to the alleged chismis spreading like wildfire in various online forums.

The proposed rehabilitation and development of the Baguio Atheltic Bowl, he added, which has been in existence for years now but never implemented because of lack of funds and certain administrative issues, has always included: a dormitory for athletes to be located below the bleachers (and that, he said, was blown out of proportion, hence the rumors about a hotel); a driving range (a golf course?) and coffee shops / snack bars / shops that will service the the athletes/users of the facility (a commercial complex).

He thanked everyone for coming to that morning’s forum to get the “real picture” and not rely only on “online chismis” in online social networking sites.

But, chismis or not, the good thing is that the heated discussions on Facebook.com, Multiply.com and various blogs reminded the powers-that-be that they are being closely watched and that the people of Baguio have become much more vigilant.

For me, though, another issue here is that word, "development," and it scares me. As I have said in the past, Baguio's raison d'ĂȘtre is its natural beauty. Anything, as in ANYTHING, you add to, erect, build in Baguio will definitely take away from that natural beauty - whether it's a mere house (no matter how beautiful that house is, it would still scar the land), or a ridiculously huge mall (bye, bye beautiful skyline). Take away as little possible from that natural beauty, I say. Less, in Baguio, is definitely a lot more.

And that's why the word scares me, because in Baguio, development means building "something", and given the track record of our city officials, that could be anything from a totaly unnecessary flyover or a horrendous concrete pine tree. Or a "shed" over a park. The list goes on.

The development of the Baguio Athletic Bowl should be limited to its main function - a center for athletic events. Improve the oval, maybe, rehablitate the bleachers, beautify the surroundings, but its development must not go beyond improving it as a sports facility.

And, seriously, another golf course? For a small city like Baguio, we have too many of that already.

Daniel Burnham was right when he said:

“Unless early protective measures are taken,
the misdirected initiative of energetic lumbermen
will soon cause the destruction of this beautiful scenery.”

As of yesterday, the update on the issue was that the Korean proponents were scared off by the fast growing opposition to their proposal. So for now, those online status updates, blog entries and other online forums serve well as early protective measures, or perhaps as early warning devices.

Let’s keep our eyes open.

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