Baguio City is the undisputed Summer Capital of the Philippines because of its unique climate, frequented by lowland visitors wanting to escape from the scorching heat of the sun especially during peak tourism and summer months. The upcoming completion of the 88-kilometer Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX) has made Baguio closer to the Metro Manila area because travel time to and from the city has been significantly reduced to around 3 to 4 hours, depending on the traffic condition along major routes. With the robust growth of the local tourism industry, various businesses started to thrive, contributing to the sustained improvement of economic activities of local residents and investors and their sources of livelihood.
Some of the thriving businesses in the city are night establishments, which are patronized by residents and visitors alike. Based on a recent study conducted by the local government, there are more than 450 night establishments located in the different parts of the city which operate until the wee hours of the morning. Aside from offering their customers drinks, night establishments have their own gimmicks such as the presence of guest relations officers and dancing, among others, that entice patrons to frequent their favourite establishments, especially when spending a well deserved break in the city.
Ordinance No. 88, series of 2009 amended previous liquor ordinances and regulated the operation of night establishments wherein videoke establishments will be allowed to operate until 10 pm, those night establishments without dancing will be allowed to close until 12 midnight, while those night spots with dancing are authorized to operate until 2 am. Violators of the local legislative measure being implemented will be fined P2,000 for the first offense, fined P4,000 with a suspension of the business permits for the second offense of the concerned establishment, and fined P5,000 and the business permit of the owners of the establishment revoked for the third offense.
Recently, police authorities had been aggressively implementing the closing time of night spots after discovering that most of the physical injuries, robbery, and theft cases are related to the operation of the establishments, and intensified operations against erring night spot owners who continue to defy the prescribed closing time of their establishments. The police found out that while the doors of the establishments are closed, there are still people left inside allegedly drinking and enjoying the night in the city. However, night spot owners reasoned that those left inside their establishments are the ones consuming their ordered drinks, thus, the need for law enforcers to be lenient in issuing to them the notices of violation of the existing liquor ordinance.
Night spot owners trooped to the City Council to lobby for the local legislative body to issue the needed directive to the local police force to relax in the implementation of the city’s liquor ordinance so that those who are able to stay beyond their prescribed time to operate will be given a chance to consume their orders before leaving the establishment without being issued the notice of violation, because of the alleged excessive fine that could lead to the eventual closure of the said establishments.
We commend the local police force for doing their job in strictly implementing the provisions of the ordinance that will force the night spots to close in their prescribed closing time. We need to be realistic about things this time wherein we should be guided by our existing laws, rules and regulations and not through the emotions that go with it.
It is therefore high time for the local government to decide whether or not it will prioritize the income that it will generate from the operation of the establishments by tolerating the violations of the night establishments. Firm decision also has to be made on where the city’s peace and program stand. Will it take the back seat to pave the way for the economic benefits, or it will remain one of the priority programs of government to guarantee the safety and security not only of the residents but also the visitors?
The establishment owners claim they will go to court to secure a temporary restraining order that will prevent the local government from implementing the prescribed closing time after they were not able to get a clear and definite action from the local legislators on their plight. We believe that the bar owners are now desperate in trying to pressure the local government to give in to their demand, considering the expected influx of people to the city during the holidays for them to be able to rake in their projected income.
The desire to earn income should not take precedence over the implementation of peace and order programs because the prevalence of peace and order should be the primordial concern of the government for the safety and security of the residents and visitors alike. Our local officials should not succumb to the machinations of the embattled bar owners because what they are fighting for is for their own personal interests while local officials should protect the interests of the greater majority of the populace.