BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – Clean air. Clean city. Clean elections.
These are what the people of Baguio want to regain as a community, according to the students, teachers, and members of civil society and religious groups who attended an open-air forum in this city on Thursday, March 3.
“It’s a city that is almost losing its soul. That’s why we bonded together, to recapture its soul,” said Dr Raymundo Rovillos, Chancellor of the University of the Philippines – Baguio (UPB), which hosted the event together with its College of Arts and Communication and MovePH.
Rovillos, a historian, added that Baguio is losing its distinct identity as a city.
“By identity, I mean [that] what makes Baguio ‘Baguio’ is its pristine environment, its scenic spots, and its rich history,” he said.
A recent study conducted by scholars from UPB and UP Los Baños revealed that nearly 14% of the number of “premature non-traumatic mortalities in Baguio” could be attributed to exposure to high concentrations of air pollution.
Diesel fumes from jeeps and taxis were identified as the main sources of the worsening air pollution in the city. Concerned residents also raised other environmental issues like the protection of trees and water resources, and waste management.
Catholic priest Manny Flores of the multisectoral network The Baguio We Want also noted that the city faces problems like poor enforcement of land use and zoning policies, as well as the lack of citizen participation in governance and elections.
“We commit to support and elect the leaders who embody the ideals we seek for the betterment of our city,” Flores said.
The forum, dubbed #PHVote Challenge: Baguio’s #TheLeaderIWant, is part of the 2016 election coverage and voter education drive launched by Rappler in May 2015. It seeks to throw light on local and national issues and engage candidates to tackle the concerns. (Take the #PHVote Challenge)
Rappler managing editor Glenda Gloria, who headlined the forum, noted that the stakes of the upcoming elections are high, emphasizing that the narrative of the race is either “continuity or change.”
Gloria, who covered the last 4 presidential elections, shared her thoughts about leadership qualities that candidates should possess:
- Does not see the world in black and white
- Does not resort to quick solutions and short-term goals
- Does not get intimidated by technology
- Does not reject dissent
- Does not see presidency as reward, trophy
Rovillos, who is also a convenor of The Baguio We Want group, said that the #TheLeaderIWant campaign resonated with their local movement which is now reaching out to voters in the villages.
“The key factor in resolving the issues is participatory governance,” Flores added.
This is also a challenge across the Cordillera region, where Baguio is geographically located, said Bernice Lee, a graduating Development Communications student from the Benguet State University. (READ: Beyond Carrot Man: Issues that matter to Baguio and Cordillera)
“Indigenous peoples are always being sacrificed in the name of national development,” said the Ifugao youth who participated in a panel discussion during the forum.
“We need leaders who will stand up for us.” – Rappler.com