2,000 people died in Baguio City in 3 years due to pollution, says DILG chief
For the last three years, around 2,000 people died because of pollution in Baguio City after it was allegedly neglected by the previous local administrations, according to the Department of Interior and Local Government.
In a radio interview, DILG Secretary Eduardo Año said the current polluted state of the city is due to the cutting of pine trees for commercial consumption.
“Between 2014 to 2017, there are 700,000 pine trees. (Now) it became 400,000… the 300,000 pine trees either died or were cut for development," he said, noting that the huge reduction in the number of planted pine trees has contributed in the city's pollution.
“The truth is for the last three years, 2,000 people died because of pollution. So very alarming,” he said.
Año, together with Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, went to Baguio City last Friday for the planned rehabilitation of the city.
He said the rehabilitation may take three years to be finished and the government might partially close some tourist spots, like the Burnham Park.
“Continuous rehabilitation… this may take three years. This could be continued by the next mayor after 2022… we will fix first the most important (problem) that needs the action of the national government and the Baguio City government,” Año said.
Not only the air but also the water is polluted in the city.
“The water here is not enough for the tourists and the residents… and the biggest problem is the trash and the chloroform level of the river which is almost 35 billion most potable number (mpn) per 100 milliliters… this is worse than the Manila Bay,” Año said.
“The sewerage system of Baguio needs to be fixed and their material recovery facility for solid waste… we thought that because it is Baguio there will be no problem in the environment but it was really abused so it’s really time to rehabilitate it,” he added.
Like in Manila Bay, Año said the government also needs to address the issue of informal settlers in no build zone areas.
“We need to remove the informal settlers in the sewerage and drainage system… because when we arrive there we cannot see the water waste. It is all informal settlers… There are areas there that are no build zones because of its steep slope but we saw cemented structures… one of the reasons why there are no trees,” he said.
He said they will create Baguio Inspection Teams that will check on how huge the problem is in the city and if the previous local government units were responsible for it.
“For the last 30 years, Baguio City is neglected. People became liberal in constructing building, hotels, mall but they did not check if they were able to comply with the basic requirements, just like in Boracay. I think the previous leadership in Baguio City had shortcomings here… let’s see on what will be the result of the Baguio inspection team that we will create and based on their data, we will see what is their negligence,” Año said.
The Department of Tourism on Friday announced the forthcoming rehabilitation of the city known as the “Summer Capital” after having a meeting with the concerned officials and stakeholders. Ella Dionisio/DMS