Department of Tourism – Philippines starts rehab of Baguio’s tourist spots

Mines view park is one of the tourist spots in Baguio that will be close for rehabilitation.

Baguio is one of the top tourist spots in the Philippines and it is a major concern that Baguio that it has problems such as traffic and growing pollution. I got invited to Baguio to find out what needs to be done to rehabilitate one of my tourist spots in the Philippines.

The Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat arrived at Baguio City on January 10, 2020 to oversee the developments in the City of Pines’ long-planned rehabilitation. The inter-agency taskforce composed of the DOT, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) met to openly discuss the updates for Baguio City’s rehabilitation program. This inter-agency collaboration follows the success of the Boracay and Manila Bay rehab initiatives.

The DOT, together with its agency partners, met to openly discuss the updates for Baguio City’s rehabilitation program. (L-R): Baguio City Representative Marquez Go; DOT Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat; DILG Secretary Eduardo Año; and Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong.

Sec. Puyat stated: “Serious concerns have been raised over the City’s seemingly unabated urban development and overtourism, leading to big city problems like traffic, overcrowding, water shortages, and growing pollution. But there is hope on the horizon. Just like our previous collective efforts have demonstrated, rehabilitation is possible when done properly and when everyone is convinced of the merits of sustainable tourism development. The current thrust of the DOT is to encourage everyone to #SaveOurSpots, instilling the culture of responsible tourism and greater concern for our environment.”

DOT Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat signed a Memorandum of Agreement with Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong and TIEZA CEO Pocholo Paragas to formalize the DOT’s investment of PHP 480 million for the rehabilitation of Baguio City’s Burnham Park, through its infrastructure arm TIEZA.

One of the main issues to be addressed is determining the carrying capacity of the City. This means establishing the ideal number of visitors that can be accommodated without harming or affecting the environment, while meeting the expectations of the visitors and respecting the needs and preserving the culture of the locals. Currently, Baguio City has an estimated 370,000 population, and nearly 800 thousand tourist arrivals were recorded from the months of January to September 2019 alone.

Together with its investment arm, the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), the DOT will be commencing the rehabilitation of Burnham Park with an earmarked budget of PHP 480 million.  Based on the signed Memorandum of Agreement, the budget will be allocated to the landscaping, lighting, and electrical works; hardscape and softscape; construction of view deck and boat docking; installation of terrace planters; view deck renovation; and plant box improvement for the Burnham Lake. It will also be invested in the landscaping, lighting, and electrical works; hardscape and softscape; gazebo and restroom construction; and installation of play equipment for the children’s playground.

DOT Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, together with Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong and DILG Secretary Eduardo Año, visited the Burnham Park site. Specific spots that will undergo major rehabilitation are the Burnham Lake and children’s playground. 

According to the Tourism Chief, the City of Pines’ rehabilitation will also entail the improvement of premiere tourist spots, revival and preservation of its ecological health, proper land use and zoning, building of a sewerage treatment plant, enhancement of street lights and pedestrian areas, construction of efficient road networks, and modernizing of transportation. All of these are geared towards highlighting and preserving the vivid culture and distinct artistry of the Cordilleras.

DOT Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat checked how Baguio City manages its solid wastes, visiting the Irisan Sanitary Landfill together with City officials. As part of the city’s sustainable tourism management, the landfill post closure plan is to turn it into an eco park.

Sec. Puyat inspected firsthand the scale of Baguio City’s rehabilitation, visiting the Burnham Park, Mines View Park, Wright Park, Baguio City’s sewage treatment plant, and Balili River, the sanitary landfill in Irisan.

DOT Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, together with Baguio City officials, went to Brgy. North Sanitary Camp to inspect the upgrading of the Baguio Sewerage Treatment Plant. The officials also discussed the present condition of the Balili-Sagudin River easements to ensure the quality of water disposed to City’s river system. In addition, the DOT Chief raised concerns over the settlements on the slopes of the mountains, and the plans for these structures located in seemingly geohazard areas.

“This is just the beginning. In future months, it is my sincere hope that more sustainable tourism plans will be threshed out and implemented, so the city of Baguio can establish itself as another shining beacon of sustainable development while recapturing all of its former glory,” Sec. Puyat concluded.

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