A proposal from a Baguio City councilor to turn the Marcos mansions in this city into a tourist hub is facing bright prospects, with a PCGG lawyer expressing openness to the idea.
BY ACE ALEGRE
Posted by Bulatlat.com
BAGUIO CITY – It was perhaps the first time in 20 years that the Marcos Baguio Mansions were opened to “strangers.” The experience was exhilarating.
Nestled along a scenic hill overlooking the mining town of Itogon along Outlook Drive here and only a stone’s throw away from the Mansion House, the president’s official residence, the JY Campos-registered mansion touted as Ferdinand and Imelda’s Baguio posh getaway then, invited wide eyes and admiration.
It was a sight that even Baguio residents could only dream of seeing.
But when we went there recently with lawyer Ernest Jay Miguel, director for legal affairs of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) upon the invitation of Baguio Councilor Perlita Chan-Rondez, the often very tight security guards turned friendly and accommodating.
The “JY Campos mansion” is by all indication grandiose. Some of its ceilings though were torn by water sipping through the ceiling affecting most of its huge rooms including a dark orange room that looked like it was used by Imelda.
Walking though the half-spiral wooden stairs to the second floor was equally regal. Though most of its carpets are worn out, walking inside the wood-enamored mansion would eventually turn anyone to feel like a prince or princes, or perhaps a king or queen.
But truly, it was meant for a king. It was Marcos’.
Each mansion was clustered on the vast rolling hill of around 5.5 hectares for the Marcos
couple – Ferdinand and Imelda; Imee, now Ilocos Norte congresswoman; Ferdinand Jr. or Bongbong, now Ilocos Norte’s governor; and another one for Marcos’ mother Doña Josefa.
For the PCGG, these are known as Menzi, Wygwam, JY Campos, another one without structure and another one which was sold already.
Miguel had confirmed that one of the five “surrendered” assets of the Marcoses in Baguio was sold six years ago to Eagle Cement, a firm supposedly owned by former Marcos ambassador Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco.
This 27,000-sq. m. property was sold for P226 million, according to retired Swiss mechanical engineer Peter Ernst who had done work at the Registry of Deeds in Baguio. For years, Ernst who lives nearby had been interested in introducing development in the area that, when integrated along the Mines View Park, could be Baguio’s new tourism pride.
Rondez says that the Marcos mansions could be turned into a tourist hub like what Germany did to the relics of its Nazi past. “The people should learn the past and not repeat it,” Rondez, who chairs the city council’s tourism, explained.
More than two years ago, Ernst and several other Baguio originals living along the area, in fact considered as Baguio’s Green Area (where Pine trees are still thick), petitioned the city government for an East Baguio Tourism Project and a detailed plan for an eco-park was crafted.
This included the Mines View Park which was then considered for delisting by the Department of Tourism (DoT) because of its unsightly disrepair and all the way to the Wright Park.
The petition fell on deaf ears, lamented Ernst. “It is good that something now can be started with the PCGG and someone from the city government is facing it,” he said.
Now, with Baguio losing many tourism arrivals because of the diminishing attractiveness of the highland resort city compared to other areas, the tourism project can be an additional showcase for tourists to come back again to Baguio, said Rondez.
Miguel lauds the project. The PCGG, he said, will have to evaluate and ascertain the viability of turning these “surrendered” properties into projects that are sustainable instead of just being there.
On the eve of Sept. 21, the 34th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law, when I and Rondez peeped at Number 44 (JY Campos mansion), Visayan Beatriz Balugas who since 2000 had been living in “Imee’s mansion” readily said, “Sayang” (What a waste) She was obviously disheartened by what had happened to these posh structures.
Miguel said the PCGG en banc will decide on the fate of these mansions depending on how the city government can present a comprehensive proposal that is attractive to PCGG.
Transfer of these properties, as earlier proposed by Rondez in her resolution before the city council, may not be attractive to the PCGG in the sense that a sale is more inviting “because the gain for the government treasury is immediate.”
The sale, said Miguel, will benefit CARP.
“But looking forward, baka nga mas profitable ang park kesa sale” (a park may really be more profitable than a sale), Miguel said. The government might think that a park that is doing business while still in the hands of the government is more beneficial rather than a sale, he explained.
Rondez assured she will push for the city to speed up the comprehensive proposal with non-government parties like Ernst participating in a yet noble endeavor to help the fledging tourism industry in the city.
“The city wants to have this and doesn’t want to lose this as a piece of history,” she assured Miguel who in turn said it had been done in Tacloban City, Leyte, where a Marcos surrendered asset is now a major tourist come-on. Nordis / Bulatlat