By Chito Chavez
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) is pushing for the approval of a proposal of the Baguio City government to impose at least a one-year moratorium on the construction of high-rise buildings in the city “to give the country’s summer capital a much-needed breather from over-development.”
“I strongly agree with Mayor Benjie Magalong on the moratorium in the construction of high-rise buildings in Baguio City. The city is now heavily congested and it’s taking so much toll on the environment. The city’s environmental condition is now a priority concern of the interagency task force headed by Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu,” said DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año.
Año shared that a draft Executive Order on the proposed moratorium on skyscrapers and cutting of trees, except those that are dead and may cause danger to life and property, has been submitted to the Office of the President.
The draft order also comes with a funding component to implement priority rehabilitative projects such as the upgrading and expansion of the city’s sewerage treatment system.
“The city needs to pause, breathe, and be healed because of overdevelopment. Let us save Baguio City while we still can. The proposed EO will pave the way for a reevaluation of the city’s urban development planning in order to consider the impact to the environment,” added Año.
The DILG chief also commended Magalong for showing political will in preserving and enlarging the city’s remaining 30 percent forest cover.
Under Magalong’s leadership, the DILG is confident that the city could hopefully put an end not just on the spontaneous construction activities but also the problems on watershed depletion, congested traffic, and rising temperature.
About 40 percent of the Busol Forest Reservation, the city’s biggest source of potable water, is now occupied by informal settler families which caused the rapid depletion from the original six watersheds to just four.
DILG Undersecretary and spokesperson Jonathan E. Malaya noted the DILG through the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) will work closely with the city government and the Department of Natural Resources (DENR)-CAR in mapping out strategic actions to address the massive problems on dwindling water supply, tree cutting, solid waste management, and overdevelopment.
Taking a cue from the successful rehabilitation of Boracay, Malaya says the city government should act swiftly to ensure that Baguio’s natural beauty is preserved amidst development.
“Our target is to ensure that Baguio City’s beauty is well-preserved so that every time local and foreign tourists go there to unwind and recharge, they can all take refuge in the city’s clear blue skies, lush green mountains, towering pine trees, and very hospitable climate,” Malaya said.