Friday, June 7, 2013

Keep it green, closed to business and open to people

The Hon. Mauricio G. Domogan, re-elected Mayor of Baguio City, has these proposals: put up gates around Burnham Park, cement portions of the Melvin Jones Football Grounds to make it the permanent site of the night market and the ongoing efforts to privatize the Baguio Athletic Bowl.

His second term in his second three-term regime has not even officially begun yet. It’s business as usual in City Hall.

Daniel must be turning in his grave. The renowned city planner after whom the park was named, did warn us more than a century ago when he drafted the Plan of Baguio - “Unless early protective measures are taken, the misdirected initiative of energetic lumbermen will soon cause the destruction of this beautiful scenery.”

Bagiw is still fortunate not to have today’s administrators of this beautiful city back then. Burnham Park, known to the natives during pre-colonial times as Minac, was the largest piece of level land in what we now know as Baguio. Daniel Burnham reserved this for a public park for the benefit of the masses. If today’s leaders of Baguio were the ones tasked to do the Plan of Baguio, given what they have been giving us the past two decades, this would have been the first to be earmarked for a huge commercial center with provisions for the addition of a five-storey parking building and a four storeys of more commercial spaces.

Putting up gates at Burnham Park runs counter to the very essence of public parks – they must be easily and freely accessible. Majority of our residents cannot afford to spend a day at the mall, or a weekend at a country club where dad plays golf and mom gets a spa treatment while the kids are swimming in a heated pool. For most of us, it is the best option to escape the rat race for a day or a couple of hours, communing with nature while lying on the grass or against a tree trunk or under its shade. Gates do not send the message that you are welcome. It tells you to stay out. Even when they’re open, it tells you that they will be closed at some point, and you must leave for you’re not welcome anymore.

Cementing portions of the Melvin Jones Football Grounds reminds me of the time they allowed portions of the Baguio Athletic Bowl for a night market. The vendors didn’t think twice having their delivery vehicles on the track raising clouds of dust in their wake forcing athletes, joggers and playing children out of the area designed specifically for them, and not for commerce. And now they will lessen the earth space at the historic grounds by cementing portions of it, much like what was done at the nearby Rose Garden where there’s now much less garden space for roses because of the concreting done. For what? Not for any of what a park or a sporting facility should be for – but for a night market.

The proposal, if it’s allowed to push through, will also lessen the water absorption capability of the area which in recent years has already been experiencing flooding. The roughly 22,000 square-meter grounds helps much in absorbing huge amounts of the excessive rainfall that Baguio is known for. For every square meter of land that’s cemented means water that will now stay above ground or that will flow to lower lying areas.

On top of these, they want to privatize the Baguio Athletic Bowl, the reason most commonly forwarded is that the city lacks funds to develop and maintain the facility on its own. But didn’t we have money for virtually inutile ERS machines? Didn’t we have money for the senseless construction of a concrete building at the Botanical Garden? Millions for the concreting of and the construction of a fountain at the Rose Garden? Millions for the construction for the gates they want to put up and the concreting of portions of the Melvin Jones Football Grounds?

As Engr. Nelson Alabanza commented online, “Ang park ay pasyalan ... ang kalsada ay daan ng sasakyan... ang palengke ay tindahan, pamilihan ... MAHIRAP BA MAINTINDIHAN YUN?” Apparently and unfortunately, for our leaders, it does look like it

Keep Burnham Park green, closed for business and open to people. Sign the online petition here:

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