July 8, 2012 in Baguio City
By RAMON DACAWI
BAGUIO CITY — The on-and-off BLISTT cluster concept of development for Baguio and the neighboring towns of La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, Tuba and Tublay has been resurrected anew, this time with greater hope for its finally being fleshed out.
The fresh push was initiated by regional director Leonardo Quitos of the National Economic and Development Authority through a meeting with the mayors of the six local government units (LGU) to take on the blueprint anchored on the European Community-supported Urban BLIST Master Plan formulated in 1994.
The EC study, which clustered Baguio, La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan and Tuba, never got off the ground, partly due to lingering fears from officials of the towns that it was “Baguio-centric”, with the city using the LIST resources for its own development.
Quitos, however, stressed that the envisioned cluster planning that now includes Tublay is “to harmonize development for the material benefit of all LGUs, focused on differentiated roles/opportunities in the context of a whole (and) clustering in the context of the region”.
He noted that both the BLIST and BLISTT initiatives “acknowledge the gains of clustering for development, like resource sharing, efficient size for public/private investment, economic linkages, specialization (and other thrusts)”.
Both initiatives, he said, “emphasize the need for a strong LGU participation” and that “strong LGU commitment attracts assistance from development institutions”.
Responding, the four mayors who attended the meeting at the El Cielito Inn here agreed that they and their peers be given five days to submit suggestions to a draft memorandum of agreement establishing the cluster development direction.
“We’ve already given our feedbacks,” said Itogon mayor Oscar Camantiles, speaking for his town , on the draft agreement, copies of which were furnished the mayors days before the meeting Thursday.
Also in the meeting were mayors Greg Abalos of La Trinidad, Florencio Bentrez of Tuba and Arthur Baldo of Sablan.
As agreed, the NEDA will collate inputs of the LGUs, after which the mayors will meet to finalize and sign the agreement, the present it to their respective city and town councils for ratification.
The cluster type of development under the BLISTT, Quitos pointed out, promises “bigger area, bigger projects, bigger investments (economies of scale)”, and, with a greater area, “stronger bargaining power”.
He added it will serve as a “platform for discussing/solving/resolving problems as well as exploring opportunities” among the member LGUs,” a point which was also raised by mayor Abalos.
Domogan dispelled old fears already raised during the formulation of the BLIST master plan in 1994 that it would result in the tapping of the resources of the Benguet towns mainly for the benefit of Baguio.
“Napunnon ti Baguio (Baguio is already overcrowded”,” he said, adding “it’s you (the towns) who will benefit (from the cluster development approach)”.
In her presentation, Carmel Chammag of the NEDA staff noted the unbalanced development in the pre-BLISTT area, with rapid growth and congestion in Baguio and La Trinidad vis-à-vis relatively low level infrastructure facilities and services and limited sources of local revenue in Itogon, Sablan, Tuba and Tublay.
She saw the need “to capitalize on the comparative advantages of the BLISTT 9eco-tourism, tertiary education center, agriculture, regional center, cut-flower industry, manufacturing, food processing, water-based power development) to enhance its local economy,” and “for inter-local collaboration and synchronized planning, development and disaster management efforts”.
As a model, the NEDA presented the “best practice” experience of Metro-Naga, the cluster formed out of Naga City and 14 surrounding towns in Camarines Sur in 1991, initially to jointly address the oil crisis that year.
Then Naga mayor and now local government Secretary Jesse Robredo and the other town mayors eventually signed an agreement creating the Metro Naga Development Council and worked out, in June, 1993, the issuance, by then President Ramos, of Executive Order 102 providing for its powers and functions and an initial budget. # nordis.net