BAGUIO CITY – Mayor Benjamin B. Magalong of Baguio City is elected anew as Chairperson of the BLISTT Governing Council for 2022 to 2025. In their regular quarterly meeting last July 26, 2022, the local chief executives lauded his proactive stance in sustaining the BLISTT cooperation and engaging the BLISTT in inter-local pandemic management from 2020 to 2021. Mayor Romeo Salda of La Trinidad is elected as Vice Chairperson.
During the meeting, several interlocal concerns were discussed to the Writ of Kalikasan covering Mount Sto. Tomas in Tuba, BLISTT air quality and the BLISTT Outer Circumferential Road.
Atty. Rainier Latta of the Cordillera office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) presented the Writ of Kalikasan of Mount Sto. Tomas Forest Reserve, covering five barangays in Tuba, Benguet. The writ prohibits earth-moving activities, and bars the issuance of business permits and tax declarations in the area by the local government. This was issued by the Supreme Court in response to the siltation of water sources of Baguio City and Tuba, and the disturbance to the natural environment caused by construction and economic activities in the forest reserve. The BLISTT Council expressed support to the activities of the DENR to enforce the Writ of Kalikasan, including the ongoing preparation of a long-term Mount Sto. Tomas Conservation and Management Plan preservation.
Ms. Wilhelmina Lagunilla of the Environmental Management Bureau of the Cordillera Administrative Region (EMB-CAR) presented the status of BLISTT air quality. The report indicated increase in air pollutants based on EMB-CAR instruments stationed in La Trinidad and Baguio City except in the Baguio Economic Zone in Loakan. It is anticipated that air pollutants will continue to increase resulting from the resumption of normal activities post-pandemic. The BLISTT mayors of Itogon, Sablan, Tuba, and Tublay committed to pass their respective clean air ordinances, following the example of Baguio City and La Trinidad.
On the BLISTT road connectivity, Mr. Philip Laberinto of the Cordillera office of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA-CAR) reported its status as of March 2022 with 42.59% completed. The PhP 9.18-billion road project with a total length of 161.96 kilometers, aims to connect the BLISTT while skirting the busy and congested roads of Baguio City and La Trinidad. Citing concerns over delays in the completion of some sections of the project and the need to check the quality of the work already finished, the BLISTT Council agreed to join the Regional Project Monitoring Committee in a project visit of the completed portions spanning 60.486 kilometers.
Dr. Jun Punzalan of Semen Cardona Filipinas presented a proposal for a BLISTT integrated food production project to help stabilize supply of pork, beef and goat meat, and prevent contamination of livestock and meat products in the BLISTT. The proposed BLISTT-wide chain of livestock production recommends the LISTT municipalities to provide the land and undertake processing while Baguio City shall provide the market and cold storage. The mayors welcomed the proposal and asked Dr. Punzalan to consult with farmers and other stakeholders in each municipality.
On BLISTT governance, Rep. Mark Go said that House Bill 9215, creating the Metropolitan BLISTT Development Authority was endorsed to the Office of the President on June 29, 2022. He shared that the BLISTT Council’s recommendation to include a section providing for the drafting of Implementing Rules and Regulations was added to the bill. The current BLISTT set-up is institutionally challenged and lacks sufficient budget to operate effectively.
The BLISTT Council welcomed the news of Go, as the law imbues the BLISTT with the capacity to implement high-impact BLISTT-wide projects and consolidate inter-local efforts to improve service delivery in the BLISTT.
The BLISTT inter-local cooperation was implemented through a memorandum of agreement on 17 January 2014. NEDA-CAR acts as the interim technical secretariat of the BLISTT governing and development councils.
By Maria Odette G. Abitan & Marlo T. Lubguban