MANILA, Philippines – Baguio locals, through a peaceful protest action, reiterated their calls for sustainable tourism that promotes and preserves Baguio’s unique culture and arts.
Called “Walkabout,” the protest happened on Wednesday morning, September 13. Amid the gloomy weather, students, locals, and members of civil society organizations participated in the mobilization that visited 3 areas within Burnham Park where the multi-level parking podiums would be established.
The Walkabout was organized by The Baguio We Want Forum, a group of concerned citizens keen on mitigating environmental damages being done to the city with socio-cultural consequences. The group earlier petitioned the city government to stop the construction of the multi-level parking podiums.
The said construction of parking podiums was the subject of a resolution passed and approved by the city council.
The parking podium, according to the resolution is, a response to the suggestion of tourists and residents to build a podium car parking “within the central business district area.” The project proposal cited the lack of parking spaces as a reason and added that it aims to address “all issues on illegal parking.”
The online petition has now garnered 9,056 signatures.
Not against development
Chancellor Raymundo Rovillos of the University of the Philippines Baguio, however, argued that Baguio City can still push for growth-oriented and income generating projects without sacrificing the city’s “ local and distinct character.” Rovillos is also one of the convenors of the Baguio We Want group. (READ: Baguio is in the running to become a UNESCO creative city)
“What kind of tourism are they promoting? What are they giving up? They are giving up heritage and knowledge areas and spaces for cars,” Rovillos said.
He cited the proposed construction of a city auditorium in the area near the library instead of the said multi-level parking area.
According to him, the construction can still be considered an income-generating one since it can be rented out. He also argued that it is more beneficial to the local community since it can be used by students and institutions for academic endeavors and/or community building.
“Iba yung development na iniisip ng city government (The city government has a different way of looking at development). They always think in revenues. Like this parking lot but at the cost of the environment,” said Luchie Maranan, a member of BWW and Tongtongan ti Umili.
Preserving knowledge spaces
Organizers of the mobilization also emphasized that the campaign is not only about the preservation of the diminishing green spaces in the city but also about the preservation of spaces of cultural and historical significance.
“By heritage we not only mean the American Colonial Heritage but also the heritage of the Ibalois who are the indigenous peoples in Baguio and Benguet,” Rovillos explained, speaking at the Ibaloi Park which is one of the areas in danger of being transformed into a parking area.
Burnham Park has been declared as a heritage site by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines in 2015.
“Baguio is known for its arts and culture. Why don’t we encourage local crafts, small enterprises instead of grandiose projects who don’t benefit the local community?” said Maranan said in mixed Filipino and English.
According to the organizers, the event is only the start of a series of protest actions and campaigns in Baguio City. – with reports from Beatrisha Lorraine Iglesia/Rappler.com
Alexa Yadao is a Journalism student from UP Baguio.