BAGUIO, Philippines (ViaNews) – Locals gathered early morning on September 13 at Burnham Park to protest the proposed construction of several multi-level podium parking within the heart of Philippines’ Summer Capital.

Burnham Park was named as a cultural heritage considering that it is more than 50 years old. It is located at the center of Baguio City, which is a top tourist attraction for its cold climate. With an area of 32.84 ha, it is the most valuable piece of Baguio real estate and said to be the “mother of all parks” in the Philippines.

Philippines-Burnham Park-vianews
For decades, Burnham Park is a venue for wellness and recreation among Baguio locals and tourists alike. It is one of the few remaining green spaces in the highly-urbanized city, but local officials are planning to erect multiple parking buildings within the 32.84-hectare park to accommodate thousands of cars in the city. Photo by: Wenilyn Asuncion.

On June 19, 2017, however, members of the Baguio City Council approved the proposals of councilors Benny Bomogao, Michael Lawana, and Faustino Olowan to construct Podium Car Parking in areas within Burnham Park.

Under the proposal, a five-story building that can accommodate 100 hundred cars on each floor was proposed to be constructed in the Ganza area. Also, three other parking podiums were proposed. The city will charge P40 as a parking fee, earning about P28M annual income.

The Ganza area, along with three other areas, were identified as parking spaces in the master development plan of Burnham Park. For the part of city officials, this means that they could introduce developments in these areas.

‘Burnham Park is for people, not for cars’

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On the other hand, the Baguio We Want Forum opposes this plan of the city, firmly believing that “Burnham Park is for people, not for cars.” So far, it gathered about 10,000 signatures opposing the construction of parking podium within Burnham Park.

To reiterate this opposition, residents, students, and members of the academe walked around the proposed sites where the parking buildings will be erected including the Ganza area, Ibaloy Heritage Park, and Auditorium.

The morning visit of the group in the park dubbed as “Walkabout” reaffirmed their call to the city government to protect the people’s beloved Burnham Park from further commercialization. The group emphasized the importance of keeping the park as a green space that serves as a venue for sports, wellness, and recreation.

“The Ganza area is currently being used as a parking space, but if the construction of podium parking pursues, it will accommodate 500 cars,” said Luchie Maranan of BWW. Thus, if that number of cars flock the area, Maranan explained that one can only imagine the pollution and traffic that this will generate.

“With so many people, so many cars you see traffic. We realize we need to have a parking space but it does not have to be at the center of the city,” said BWW member Vangie Ram, stressing that the center of the city should be walkable.

The National Historical Commission of the Philippines wrote a letter to the city government of Baguio, reminding the city officials of the National Heritage Act of 2009, particularly Article III Section 5 of RA 10066, which considers Burnham Park as an important cultural property, thus, it must be preserved and protected.

“The park also functions as breathing space and center for public congregation since the American colonial period,” added the NHCP letter, further urging the city government to submit the development plan of the proposed podium parking for review and comment.

NHCP emphasized that the city must not take any changes until the development plan is approved.

‘Burnham Park development is necessary’

Meanwhile, Baguio City Mayor Mauricio Domogan reiterated the need to maximize the development of Burnham Park. Since Ganza has long been used as a parking area, he said that the city is only introducing improvements to accommodate more vehicles.

“All of us, like me, would like to preserve the Burnham Park but people need to understand that the Ganza area is an identified parking space,” said Domogan.

Further, the chief executive explained that this development can help generate more income to sustain the operation and maintenance of Burnham Park.

He responded to the suggestion of BWW that people could park their cars outside the center of the city then walk in going to Burnham Park, saying that not all people would want to walk.
Domogan also said that while SM Baguio City is expanding its parking spaces, this is not sufficient to accommodate all vehicles in the city.