'Doon sa pinakamabahong lugar': Baguio mayor-elect to hold office in dumpsite

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 17 2019 11:48 AM

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MANILA - The new mayor-elect of Baguio City promised to hold office at the dumpsite in Barangay Irisan on his second day as the summer capital's chief executive.

"My commitment to you is on my second day, I will hold office here in Irisan dumpsite, doon sa pinakamabahong lugar," said mayor-elect Benjamin Magalong.

Magalong said he would invite heads of offices, departments and concerned agencies to join him in spending a day there. "So they will feel, they will experience how they will live in such very, very foul environment," he said.

A trash slide at the height of typhoon Mina in 2011 killed six persons in Barangay Asin in Baguio. The following year, the Court of Appeals ordered the permanent closure of the dumpsite in Irisan.

Magalong said the city spent around P100 million just to haul garbage last year. He expects the figure to increase when the dumpsite in Urdaneta, Pangasinan closes down.

"All our garbage will have to be hauled all the way to Capas, Tarlac," he said, adding that they would have to negotiate with other municipalities for Baguio’s garbage.

Magalong said they are looking at a sanitary landfill or use waste-to-energy technology to resolve the garbage crisis in the city. He noted some sectors are opposed to waste-to-energy tech since it would have toxic emissions.

Aside from the garbage problem, Magalong will also focus on solving the city's traffic which he said has been impacting a lot of people.

The traffic, he said, is due to several factors. In the city, Magalong said there are 30,000 private cars and around 11,000 public utility vehicles plying the roads that have limited carrying capacity.

Discipline is another issue as many people would rather ride than walk, and be driven to their destination door-to-door. Magalong said the lack of sidewalks prevents people from walking in the city. 

"Nagtayo sila ng Traffic Management Office 'di naman capacitated 'yung tao, wala namang training, wala kaming well-trained traffic engineer," he said.

Magalong said some strategic solutions for the traffic problem include more parking buildings, big terminals outside Baguio for visitors to use, and further study of a mass transport system.

Unlike Boracay, another popular tourist destination, Magalong said they cannot just close Baguio for rehabilitation because it is a gateway to other towns. 

"But we will very much welcome any initiative from national government to rehabilitate Baguio because one thing is it would entail huge investments, huge capital," he said.

He said part of the Baguio environmental rehabilitation is fixing the city's sewerage system, the need for massive reforestation, and building rainwater catchbasins to answer the water crisis.

Magalong is the former chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the Philippine National Police. He spearheaded the investigation on the Mamasapano clash that saw 44 Special Action Force members killed in action. 

In his final report, Magalong said former President Benigno Aquino III had committed lapses.

"I was unceremoniously relieved as CIDG. Nakakalungkot pa nun. We were recipients of several awards, then suddenly tinawag sa akin, mare-relieve na ako," he said.

He was reassigned and then promoted as No. 3 man in the PNP when President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office.

He believes that the Mamamasapano report helped him win in his campaign.

"Napakalaki. Every time I meet people in my caucuses, I need to tell them my story and one of those stories is the Mamasapano investigation. It is a test of character and I keep on saying to them that when the time came when I had to choose between character and career, I chose character. The people loved it, they saw it and they could feel it. I also narrated to them several more stories of leadership and character," he said.

Magalong retired in 2016, and was appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte as board member of the state-owned Philippine National Oil Co. in 2018. 

The retired police general garnered 41,482 votes, beating Edison Bilog (22,670) in Monday’s polls. The results came as a shock to him considering that they filed five days before the deadline of the filing of candidacy. He said he did not field a full slate and only carried one councilor.

"I was a bit shocked with the result na talagang malaki ang agwat so ibig sabihin mataas 'yung expectations so I need to hit the ground running," he said.