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Benguet mayors seek bigger say in Greater Baguio

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Mine’s View Park Baguio
Mine’s View park in Baguio City -- BW FILE PHOTO

BENGUET mayors said they want the role of a development authority centered on Baguio City to be clearly defined to prevent overlaps with local government units (LGUs).

The mayors testified Friday at a Senate hearing in Camp John Hay, Baguio City on the proposed Baguio City, La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, Tuba and Tublay Development Authority (BLISTTDA).

“We do not like an authority, which is another bureaucracy over and above the LGUs, that will infringe on the autonomy and functions of the LGUs,” Baguio City Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan said, speaking on behalf of the mayors, during the Senate hearing.

“Instead, our suggestion is that we define the relationship of the development authority with the local government units, with the line agencies so that there will be no overlapping of functions and conflict,” he added.

Mr. Domogan also proposed for BLISTTDA to have a governing council chaired by a person elected by Benguet mayors, instead of appointment by the President as prescribed in the bill.

He also called for the proposed measure to clearly define the project funding responsibilities between the authority and LGUs. BLISTTDA should not interfere as well with the LGUs’ programs in its own jurisdictions, he added.

“Programs… of LGUs totally funded by their own funds, which does not involve other members of BLISTT, shall be the concern to be implemented by the said LGUs. The authority has no power to mingle with those programs and development which is solely for the development and programs of the LGU,” he said.

Mr. Domogan said Benguet mayors are otherwise in favor of the creation of a development authority that will monitor and coordinate policies between national government agencies and LGUs for the region.

In response, committee chair Senator Richard J. Gordon said there will be plebiscite on the creation of the development authority, with its composition and functions subject to the approval of citizens. He added that he will introduce a “proposition system” in the bill that would allow a mechanism for stakeholders to freely provide feedback on the policies of BLISTTDA.

“There will be a plebiscite. We cannot do this without a plebiscite… In the plebiscite, you can even suggest if it will be now a new board of supervisors that will handle it or the old system. There will be suggestions in the plebiscite. We will draft a law in such a way that we do this,” he said.

The Senate committee on government corporations and public enterprises, chaired by Mr. Gordon, conducted its second public hearing in Baguio City on House Bill No. 6974 and Senate Bill No. 1692, which propose to establish BLISTTDA.

The proposed body is tasked to formulate and regulate the implementation of the medium- and long-term plans and programs for the delivery of services, land use and physical infrastructure within the covered area. It will also set policies on traffic management and impose fines and penalties for all kinds of violations of traffic rules.

Under the bill filed by Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto, the BLISTTDA council serves as the policy-making body of the development authority. It will be composed of the Benguet governor, congressmen of Baguio City and Benguet, as well as the mayors of the covered areas. The council’s chairman is appointed by the President. — Camille A. Aguinaldo