Saturday, September 7, 2013
More questions instead of answers: a letter from the Baguio City Engineer’s Office
In June, we started a petition to question certain proposals forwarded by Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan with regards to the development of Burnham Park. We voiced out our opposition to three major issues: the mayor’s proposal to concretize portions of the Melvin Jones Grounds to accommodate the night market currently held along a stretch of Harrison Road; his proposal to install iron gates at the major entrances to the park and the planned privatization of the Baguio Athletic Bowl along with the ongoing commercialization of the park.
We kept the Mayor’s Office and the City Council updated about the petition – the first letter we sent informed them of the online signature gathering effort and the second one gave them an update of the number of signatures we’ve gathered – which included DILG Sec. Mar Roxas’.
We received a letter from the City Council informing us that our petition, including the sentiments expressed therein, has been “noted.” I had no idea what that really meant.
Then I received a letter from the City Engineer’s Office dated August 13, 2013, informing the petitioners of their reply to Mayor Domogan’s letter. Apparently, the mayor forwarded our petition to their office and directed them to address the issues we raised. Odd, for when the aforementioned proposed projects first came out in local newspapers, I don’t remember seeing City Engineer’s Leo C. Bernardez, Jr.’s name. But I guess that’s how it goes at the mayor’s office these days: projects, whether proposed, ongoing or completed, will be announced by the mayor himself to make sure we give the credit where or to whom they want the credit to be given. But when it’s met with opposition, the buck’s passed to another office. Take for example the proposed expansion project of SM City Baguio that put 182 trees on Luneta Hill on death row. Initially, the mayor came out lauding the project as it will, according to both SM and the mayor, and echoed by the local traffic management czar, help ease the traffic in the central business district. But when the opposition to the expansion project came out, all we heard from the mayor was “I cannot do anything” and that his office had nothing to do with the project. That, despite the admission of DENR that the mayor’s office’s endorsement of the expansion project was a key factor in the granting of a tree-cutting, or make that tree-mass murder, permit.
The letter from Engr. Bernardez answered the issues we raised thus:
1. In the construction of a “walkway” along the perimeter of the Melvin Jones Grounds, there will be no “concrete works except for the edges of the walkway to hold the “palo-palo” pavers in place.” They’re now calling it a “walkway,” but we must not forget that this is being done to turn the grounds into a nightly tiangge when the night market is moved to that concretized, okay, “palo-palo” laden “walkway.” In an earlier letter from the City Council, we were reminded that there is in fact an existing ordinance prohibiting the holding of trade fairs inside the park. Let’s not be fooled by semantics: walkways, “palo-palo,” night market, etc. Look at how much earth space we lost when they “renovated” the Rose Garden. And really, what part of “beyond the commerce of man” don’t they understand?
2. In a meeting they had to tackle the putting up of gates around the park, Engr. Bernardez informed us in his letter that said “road entrance/exits,” mind that they’re not calling it “gates,” “shall remain opened at anytime.” His letter further said that it “also recommended the possibility of realigning it from steel gates to steel arches.” I’ve heard this before: there is money available for a project, and even if the project is useless or just plain inane, officials will push through with the project otherwise the money would be returned to the national treasury or the city coffers if they don’t spend it. And what’s wrong with that? That’s still better than spending it on a useless project. They said that the money for the gating proposal will be sourced from the surplus from the government counterpart funding provided for the fencing of Burnham Park. The money’s there, and they’re itching to spend it. What’s the use of putting up gates if they’ll remain open at all times anyway? And now, a proposal to instead spend it on steel arches. They just have to spend it, don’t they? The attitude’s got “Napoles” stamped all over it.
3. And lastly, Engr. Bernardez said that “The Athletic Bowl shall remain under the City’s management. The proposed development of the Athletic Bowl will not be under any private person/entity.” So what are the terms of reference passed by the city council for that set the guidelines in the bidding process? How can we say that the City itself will undertake the development project when at the same time City Hall has in its hands proposals from a Korean-led corporation and two other private engineering firms?
Thank you very much for your letter, Engr. Bernardez, but I must say that in your effort to provide answers, the letter seems to have raised more questions.