Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate committee on government corporation and public enterprises, shared the view that once the law enacting the BLISTTDA shall become effective, it must be ratified by the constituents of the involved local governments through a plebiscite and that local governments who opt not to join the said body will be excluded from the same depending on the outcome of the plebiscite.
Senator Gordon said that the committee will consolidate the proposals of the various representatives of different sectors who attended the committee public hearing on the proposed bill that was held in Baguio before deciding on whether or not to conduct another hearing either in the city or in Metro Manila for the stakeholders to appreciate the final version of the proposed law.
“The proposed creation of BLISTTDA will be a game changer for all cities and urban centers in the country. It will also serve as a template for cities that want to replicate the said authority in their areas of jurisdiction,” Gordon stressed.
The senator claimed that the BLISTTDA bills will undergo the needed revisions to incorporate the inputs that were gathered by the committee during the public consultation so that it will tailor-fit the needs of the local governments that will be covered by the proposed authority.
According to him, one of the problems of the local governments that will be addressed by the pending measures is resiliency in terms of dealing with situations that occur anytime so that it will be easier for volunteers and responders to react to the situation and save lives and properties from being exposed to eminent danger.
Senator Gordon suggested that during the initial phase of the BLISTTDA implementation, it will include and cover the town of Bokod while the second phase will cover the entire Benguet province before expanding to include other provinces in the Cordillera being a natural treasure in itself because of its natural sceneries that boost the region’s tourism industry.
He claimed that he is in favour of having an initial three years of implementation of the BLISTTDA subject fine-tuning to suit the needs of the local governments that will be included in the coverage of the authority and address the planning issues on the development thrusts of the affected communities.
The lawmaker explained that the proposed law will be crafted to allow the active involvement of different sectors in the planning, coordination, implementation and monitoring of the desired development programs and projects suitable to the prevailing situation in the concerned local governments and to strike a balance between development and the environment and culture.
Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan commended the members of the Senate committee on government corporations and public enterprises for visiting Baguio City and spending some of their valuable time to listen to the sentiments of the different sectors on the proposed creation of the Baguio-La Trinidad-Itogon-Sablan-Tuba-Tublay Development Authority (BLISTTDA) so that the contents of the proposed measure will be improved to reflect what the people of the involved local governments actually need from the government.
The local chief executive pointed out that the recent visit of Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate committee on government corporations and public enterprises, contributed in enlightening local officials and the representatives of various sectors on the duties and responsibilities of the BLISTTDA and its limitations so as not to undermine the autonomy of the involved local governments.
“We are elated over the positive outcome of the public consultations conducted by the Senate committee on government corporations and public enterprises because we were able to raise the necessary points that should be given appropriate attention for the benefit of all the involved local governments,” Domogan stressed.
He added that there is a need to provide limitations to the powers of the authority that will be created so that the programs and projects that will be funded by the BLISTTDA will be the ones that will be supervised and monitored by the authority.
However, he proposed that it should be defined in the proposed law that programs and projects funded by concerned government agencies will be the sole responsibility of the agencies involved while locally funded programs and projects will fall under the jurisdiction of the concerned local government without undue interference from the BLISTTDA.
Domogan argued that the BLISTTDA should not be an added layer of bureaucracy in the current governance set up that will undermine the autonomy of local governments but it should serve as a vehicle to speed up the development opportunities in the other involved local governments outside Baguio city.
The creation of the BLISTTDA was one of the recommendations contained in the European Union (EU) urban planning study that was conducted in Baguio City way back in the early 1990s that paved the way for the emergence of the Metro Baguio concept.
The City Mayor emphasized that the powers of the BLISTTDA should be limited to coordination and monitoring of priority development programs and projects si that it will not trample upon the autonomy of the concerned local governments and to address the fear of some local officials that the authority will intrude into the affairs of the city and municipalities comprising the said body.
He said that stakeholders will await the decision of the Senate committee on government corporations and public enterprises whether or not to call for another public consultation either in Metro Manila or in Baguio city to get added inputs on the revised bill seeking for the creation of the BLISTTDA before it will be calendared in the Senate for plenary debates and subsequent approval.
Earlier, the House of Representatives passed on third reading House Bill (HB) 6974 seeking the creation of the BLISTTDA.
By Dexter A. See