By Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has identified six key areas of concern that need to be addressed during the rehabilitation of Baguio City.
DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu on Friday said the government’s rehabilitation efforts will be focused on Baguio City’s air quality, river quality, solid waste management, forest cover, traffic congestion, and proliferation of informal settlers and illegal structures.
“We are looking to improve these areas, which have deteriorated drastically during the past few decades,” Cimatu said.
He also cited a study by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) indicating that the most critical urban carrying capacity indicators that need to be considered in the city are road length and area, solid waste collection, water supply, liquid waste treatment capacity, forest cover, and urban land for construction and development.
“We deem these factors as critical because the NEDA also estimates that the population in the country’s summer capital will soar up to 530,990 by 2045,” he pointed out.
Urban carrying capacity is defined as the maximum level of human activities, population growth, land use and physical development that can be sustained by urban environment without causing its serious degradation and irreversible damage.
Cimatu also pointed out the need to implement drastic measures to tackle air pollution in Baguio City. In 2014, the country’s summer capital topped the list of the World Health Organization (WHO) Study on Ambient Air Pollution with the most polluted air in the Philippines with particulate matter 2.5 (PM 2.5) at 49 micrograms per cubic meter.
Particulate matter is an indicator for air pollution.
“Baguio City’s air quality is troubling because there are more than 2,000 deaths related to air pollution from 2015 to 2019,” Cimatu said, citing data from the local government.
He added that the DENR is also eyeing the rehabilitation of Balili and Bued rivers, which coliform levels are even worse than that of the Manila Bay.
He said the DENR is looking forward to the conversion of the Irisan dumpsite into an “environmental-friendly eco-park.”
The dumpsite was temporarily shut down last year for operating as an open dumpsite. The operation and maintenance of open dumpsites are strictly prohibited under the Republic Act 9003 (Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000).
Cimatu earlier ordered his field officials to saturate Baguio with pine trees and restore its reputation as the “City of Pines” after he noticed the “balding” mountain city.
He has also ordered the conduct of an ecosystems research to extend the life of the Benguet pine tree species.