By JEOFFREY MHAR LARUA
BAGUIO CITY — A petition opposing the City Council’s plan to put up a parking lot on a huge chunk of Burnham Park has gathered support online and on the ground.
The petition, a concerted effort of various organizations led by the Baguio We Want Forum (BWW), has gathered over 7,000 online signatures since being posted at change.org on August 9, as of press time.
‘Not for cars’
According to BWW, the century-old park “ is for people, not for cars”.
The opposition sparked after the City Council on June 19 approved a resolution introduced by Councilors Benny Bomogao, Michael Lawana, and Faustino Olowan requesting for the construction of a “podium car park.” The proposed structure would occupy the areas of Ganza Restaurant, the Children’s Park, and the City Library, all located within the perimeter of Burnham Park.
BWW’s online petition stated that the proposed structure is the “anti-thesis of what a park should be,” highlighting a continuous threat of shrinking open and green spaces in the city and “adverse” consequences to the city’s health, culture, and heritage.
Environmental, health factors
Among the reasons cited by the petition is its contribution to the worsening environmental state of the city.
“The proposed parking infrastructure will contribute to global warming because it will encourage the use of more carbon-emitting, pollution-producing vehicles and it will further reduce the city’s heat-absorbing non-concrete surface moisture,” stated the petition.
The World Health Organization has already touted Baguio City’s central business district as among the world’s most polluted in a 2014 study.
“The presence of car parks poses health hazards, such as pulmonary diseases, including lung cancer,” the petition added.
It also cited the area being an important source of water in a city “with diminishing water supply.”
The petition also highlighted the park’s significant historical and cultural value to the city.
The park, which dates back to the American Insular Government era, is part of an envisioned urban plan by its namesake, American architect Daniel Burnham. It has since been declared a significant historical site by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP).
The park also played host to various historical events, including the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1981 and as a site of refuge to the victims of the 1990 Luzon earthquake.
Meanwhile, progressive alliance Tongtongan ti Umili said that aside from its history as a colonial-designed park, it plays a large historical role in the struggle of the Ibalois for their ancestral lands.
The area where Burnham Park is located occupies the area of Kafagway, where Ibalois, the first settlers of the city lived.
The location of the Ibaloi Heritage Garden inside the park would be affected should the project push through.
A park reservation
The petition also added that the area is a park reservation and infrastructure improvement is limited by law.
“Burnham Park is a park reservation(1) – a recreation ground. Management, maintenance and administration of Burnham Park by the City Government of Baguio is limited by law(2) so that it “cannot encumber, mortgage or alienate any portion of the Park and use thereof shall be limited only to recreation and tourism-related activities.” The construction and operation of a podium car park would be in violation of this provision,” the petition stated. # nordis.net