"..a bardy view!"

Baguio City

All the activity of earthquakes has prompted my thoughts to Baguio. This remarkable "city in the sky" is the Philippines summer capital. It sits 5000ft above sea level in the mountainous Cordillera region where the air is cool, crisp, fresh and invigorating.  

Mines view I have a very special affection for the place, simply because I feel exceptionally relaxed there for all its eclectic and diverse mix of attractions.

I have a great memory of happening to be there in 2003 and watching England's
victory over Australia in the Rugby World Cup.

The Philippines is certainly not a rugby playing nation, so it was a pleasant surprise to find a live TV feed from Sidney.

Who could forget that last-second winning drop-kick by Johhny Wilkinson in extra-time to clinch victory? It was certainly a great excuse to go out on the town afterwards.

It was the first time I had visited Baguio, and I was so impressed that I returned the following year. That's quite a feat considering it's a nine hour drive from Manila. A trip up the meandering Kennon Road to the top is not for the faint-hearted, but it's well worth it. And the panorama over the rice terraces at Mines View is not to be missed.  Nor indeed is picking strawberries whilst your head is literally in the clouds.

Baguiopic Anyway, one look at the multidinous precariously positioned buildings clinging to the hillsides, and the first thing one would ask is what would happen if an earthquake struck?

Such an event is highly possible. Building regulations are not rigorously enforced, and the city's disaster management committee has recently been exposed as sorely lacking.

The city sits on four major fault lines: Mirador, San Vicente, Loakan and Burnham, with a further four in the surrounding vicinity, one of which was responsible for a 7.7 quake which hit the city 21 years ago. Substantial damage was caused and many people were killed when the Hyatt Terraces Plaza Hotel was toppled. Over 1500 people lost their lives across the region.

The population has increased considerably since then. It currently stands at at over 320,000 which doubles in the summer. Because of this, its topography, and vulnerability from potential natural hazards, the World Bank has identified Baguio as one of the world's seven most risk prone cities.

And it won't just need an earthquake to cause catastrophe, a strong typhoon with heavy rain can produce landslides wreaking havoc due to the significant deforestation. At least Baguio will not fear a tsunami, unlike Manila  which has been placed by IRIN (a service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) as one of the top five most dangerous cities in the world threatened by natural disasters. Two different organizations, two different cities, yet both in the same country.

These are the factors which are influencing many of the problems facing the Philippines today, namely rampant over-population, deforestation, inadequate or ignored building regulations and detrimentally exploited natural resources.

Just addressing one of these is a major task, never mind all of them. Let's hope they have a government with the will and courage to step up to the plate before it's too late. The time for procrastinating pontification is over.


March 22, 2011 - Posted by | Conservation, Events, The Philippines, Travel

1 Comment »

  1. Fascinating and another great read. You really have a talent.


    Comment by Spook Moor | March 23, 2011 | Reply

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