BAGUIO CITY – Former Rep. Bernardo M. Vergara recovery from the effects of the devastating 1990 earthquake was for the utmost safety and for the sake of the citizenry, resulting to the construction of overpasses – another milestone in Baguio’s infrastructure development.
With youth empowerment and sports development amongst his platform, Congressman Vergara conceptualized the creation of covered basketball courts and multi-purpose arenas for barangay events. Again, funding was appropriated through his initiatives as legislator. Up to this day, these projects are used in many barangay events, sports tournaments and at times, as a refuge for evacuees during storms and emergency situations.
Baguio was once referred to as “The City of Lights” by one national media outfit during his tenure as congressman. Being the former general manager of the Philippine Tourism Authority, Vergara knows the importance of Baguio being a prime tourist destination. Every nook and cranny in the city was lighted up to beautify and assure safety, not just for tourists, but for locals as well. Sadly, however, most of these lighting fixtures weren’t maintained after his tenure as a public servant.
The rehabilitation of Marcos Highway, a foreign-assisted endeavor advancing the state of one of the Cordillera’s major access routes, was an enormous development in design championed by Vergara.
The construction of the Magsaysay Fly-Over was another breakthrough in solving traffic congestion in the area and in nearby La Trinidad. This was a first in the Cordilleras and was said to have placed the city in the national map as a conducive arena in commerce-building due to better transportation and traffic management. Traffic build-up was neutralized substantially because of this project, and in light of this, complimenting road networks were needed like the Circumferential Road linking Baguio’s perimeters with nearby provinces. Both were brainchilds of Vergara as a legislator.
His ascent to national attention began in 1978 when he was named general manager of the Philippine Tourism Authority, where he was called the incomparable Action Man of the then Ministry of Tourism, headed by Minister Jose Aspiras. Under their partnership, Philippine tourism facilities blossomed, luring the country’s first-ever one million arrivals.
After 1986, he reverted to private life and immersed himself in varied socio-civic activities. He served as president of the Baguio Host Lions Club and then as district governor of Lions International, District 301-C; aside from being an active scout leader of the Baguio BSP chapter.
In 1992, he was elected congressman of Baguio City, as the outspoken voice for rehabilitation of a city devastated by the earthquake. Throughout his congressional work and in partnership with then Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan, he put into motion the physical reconstruction of Baguio. Much of the city’s recovery is largely attributed to the fine teamwork that he had with city officials, a far cry from age-old animosities that used to mark city politics. He was re-elected in 1995 and 1998, serving a full 9-year term.
Among his achievements as congressman was for the increased discount benefits afforded in the Expanded Senior Citizens’ Act; the segregation of 13 Camp John Hay barangays for occupants’ homelot rights; the segregation of the six Forest Park barangays of Cabinet Hill, Engineers Hill, DPS, Marcoville, M. Roxas, and portions of Teachers Camp for occupants’ homelot rights, the funding of P650M for the Naguillan Road modernization; the funding for the Kennon Road modernization; the upgrading of national and city roads, the declogging of the City Camp Lagoon area that made it flood-free; the rehabilitation of the Rabbit Sinkhole and its upgrading into a city park; the funding for the Baguio BLISTT Circumferential Road; the conversion of 36 city roads into national roads; the establishment of the DPWH Baguio City Engineering District Office; the establishment of the Baguio City School Of Arts and Trade; the establishment of the Irisan National High School; the rehabilitation of calamity-damaged public schools and construction of new school buildings, classrooms, and laboratory facilities; educational assistance for deserving Baguio youth; funding support for the modernization of the Baguio Health Department; funding support for the Baguio General Hospital expansion program; and livelihoold assistance to various non-government organizations through the Cooperative Development Authority.
Afterwards, Vergara served as mayor from 2001-2004. He instituted major reforms to spearhead Baguio’s continued economic growth through no-nonsense governance that drew strength from a simple dream — to serve city folks responsibly and well.
During his three-year term, Vergara also initiated an intensified tax mapping program for accurate tax assessment and collection; initiated the upgrading of outdated fees, government permits and other services; led the Baguio Flower Festival in 2002 and 2003 that accounted for 1 million tourist arrivals during the Panagbenga season; worked for an increased city budget to address various critical needs, capped by an P850M budget in 2004; established the One Stop Shop business permit processing center at City Hall; pushed for the establishment and development of barangay satellite markets; enacted the traffic ordinance of the number coding scheme to reduce air pollution and decongest traffic in the central business district; won for Baguio City an international citation from the United Nations for its environmental protection program; acquired from the national government various “idle” national properties for revenue-generating eco-tourism development like the Diplomat Hotel, Baguio Convention Center, Hilltop Hotel and others; and initiated the Asin Hot Springs development program for increased city revenues.
Aside from his successful endeavors, he has received many accolades, like the Ulirang Ama award in 1996. But it is the credit he gets from his simple projects — a tire path, a walkway safety railing, an access road, a classroom school facility, a community deep well, a lighted park, a needed scholarship, a medical help for a chronic ailment — that has made great impact in the life of the common man which he cherishes.
By Press Release