European Union (EU) delegates visit Baguio

Despite Covid-19 restrictions, the delegation of European Union Ambassador Luc Veron visited Baguio and called on Mayor Benjamin Magalong Thursday, October 21, for bilateral discussions on strengthening partnerships.

While here, the EU ambassador and the mayor discussed city programs on watershed recovery and preservation, risk reduction through geo-hazard mapping and even rainwater preservation through reservoirs in coordination with other agencies. The mayor reiterated that recovery efforts are being done, though he rued the loss of 52 hectares of green covers before he came in as executive in 2019.

Detailedly, programs on plastic life cycle, waste management and green approach to recovery were broached by the ambassador’s staff, which according to the mayor are presently on the City Planning and Development Office (CPDO) agenda. 

A component study from a foreign government is done on aggressive road recovery, wider streets, sidewalks and pedestrian lanes. The same is true with an approved ADB loan for the improvement of the sewage system, though it is a no-profit project, the mayor intimated. 

Air quality which recently was reported as one of the worst in the country, alongside the National Capital Region and Cebu city is also looked into very closely, Mayor Magalong said. Ways on dealing with it are being explored, in coordination with the Department of Environment and Natural Environment (DENR), Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and other offices.    

Coordination is being done with the Department of Transportation and concerned agencies for the public transport system with low carbon exhaust, with the Smart City concept which was launched recently would probably take four years to be finally established. The mayor expressed appreciation for all the technical assistance; with Korean and Singapore models, and the public and private partnership options offered to the city.

The mayor admitted that the Covid-19 surge affected the city’s economy as it is a tourism destination, but is slowly gaining after more than a year of “hammer and dance” technique. Recovery is also eminent with the city having 82% of the 281,000 population done with the first dose, and Baguioites’ discipline and admirable compliance to the minimum public health protocols. Senior citizens, as a vulnerable group also nears a complete hundred percent vaccination, with 93% done.

Lastly, Mayor Magalong confidently stated that corruption through public infrastructure projects are stamped out, with transparency on all transactions. He cited project inspections where the substandard projects were rejected, thus an improvement during the past year. “There is a noticeable difference from the numbers of rejected and approved infrastructure projects,” he ended.                     

The ambassador is with his party: Ana Sanchez-Ruiz, Thelma Gecolea, Christopher Wagner, Caroline Maningo and Margarita Raynera.

Ambassador Veron and his party diligently went through entry and travel protocols and observed MPHS while meeting with the mayor and going around Baguio.

He noted that there are similarities in Baguio and several areas in Europe, particularly the landscapes, presence of pine trees and the noticeably mild weather.  

While on tour, the ambassador handles two ongoing programs: the promotion of enhanced legal framework and protection of indigenous peoples’ rights; and reinforcing empowerment of local government units/ municipalities, working with civil society to enhance disaster and climate risk governance and resiliency. — Julie G. Fianza