The scenic and historic 34-hectare Burnham Park complex is almost synonymous to Baguio city. Foreign and domestic visitors visiting the country’s undis puted Summer Capital do not consider their visit or stay in the city as complete without dropping by any portion of Burnham Park. True enough, Burnham Park has been there for over a decade now and it remains as a premier tourist destination in the city primarily because it is located right at the heart of the city.
Previously, the park was under the Department of tourism through the Philippine Tourism Authority – National Parks Development Committee which administered and operated the park for several decades without any significant development to speak of. There were numerous issues and concerns that cropped up in terms of the way the city’s premier park was managed that prompted the local government to lobby for the transfer of the administration, maintenance and operation of the park to the city considering that the park was already mismanaged that caused uproar among former officials and residents then.
In 1995, former President Fidel V. Ramos issued Executive Order (EO) No. 224, series of 1995 that transferred the administration, management and operation of Burnham Park from the tourism department to the city government with an annual subsidy from the national government of P18 million that will be credited to the local government to help in defraying the needed expenses to maintain and administer the park. Further, the contractual employees of the NPDC numbering to over 8 were absorbed by the local government so that their services will not be unjustly cut apart from the fact that they already reached the ages of 50 and above where their potentials of being employed are not that good. Fr a number of years, the national government had been fulfilling its obligation under the said order until there came a time that there were already delayed releases in the subsidy and the fact that it was again
reduced to only P1 million annual. Worst, for a good number of years, the subsidy had been provided until the PA can no longer provide the subsidy until the same was abolished and replaced with the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) where the local government did not receive any subsidy for the administration,
operation and maintenance of the park.
In 2009, former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo issued Executive Order No. 95 that officially ceded Burnham Park to the local government as the national government’s gift to the city on the occasion of its centennial anniversary. The provisions of the said order were almost similar to that of EO No. 224. Moreover, the University of the Cordillera (UC) also prepared a comprehensive master development plan of Burnham Park that coasted about P1.9 million which was given for free to the local government but unfortunately, the proposal was not adopted by the city for still unknown reasons.
One of the contents of the proposal was the identification of the former site of the old auditorium as a parking area for motor vehicles to ensure the proper mobility of people around the park. \ A good number of groups who claim to be the only ones to love Baguio suddenly mushroomed and became the noisy minority who have time and again raised their opposition to the proposed put up of a multilevel parking building in the area to help in providing adequate parking spaces for the increasing number of vehicles in the city, especially during the influx of visitors. Some of them even went to the extent of misinforming national officials on the matter that caused bad publicity on the part of the city.
Experts have time and again reiterated that the put up of multilevel parking structures is one of the possible solutions to the city’s worsening traffic congestions. There are already some promises by incoming city officials on how to solve the problem but we still believe that no science can ever correct the wrong attitude of motorists when they’re on the road.
We fully agree that the put up of multi-level parking structures in strategic areas in the city will lessen the presence of motor vehicles along the road and convince people to use the present public transport system, irregardless of what I should take. We should have the political will to pursue the proposed multi-level parking rea in Burnham Park, the old site of the auditorium, using the current green architecture to address whatever environmental issues and concerns that it will create. What is important is we have the definite solution to our parking problems and lessen our worsening traffic congestions. No one has the monopoly of knowledge because we need everyone to be involved in addressing the matter. Let us plan and implement our plans without being pressured by our benefactors so that we will be able to achieve providing welfare to the greater majority of our populace. Let us put to rest the planned declaration of Burnham Park as a national heritage so that we can proceed to move on to greater heights.