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P10-M aid for Burnham Park scrapped

[ Manila Bulletin Online ] July 31, 2008

Baguio officials hit DoT order stopping fund assistance

BAGUIO CITY – The Department of Tourism (DoT) has scrapped the P10-million annual aid it is giving to the city government for the maintenance and operation of the historic Burnham Park here, a premier tourist destination.

The reason for the scrapping of the fund assistance is that by now the park should be self-sustaining.

Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano informed city officials of his office’s decision to stop the financial assistance, saying that the maintenance and operation of the park have been devolved to the city government.

Earlier, President Arroyo issued an executive order turning over the management and operation of Burnham Park from the Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA) to the city government, granting a request of city officials who had complained about the failure of PTA to maintain the park well.

City officials said the scrapping of the P10-million annual aid being given by the PTA to the city is not included in the President’s order. They questioned Durano’s "unilateral act" of scrapping the fund, which is appropriated for the salaries of some 100 workers.

City officials said Durano could not just stop the grant of the fund aid for Burnham Park because this requires a PTA board resolution, adding that the city is still entitled to get its annual share from the PTA this year.

The President had reportedly assured city officials that the fund assistance for the park will continue until 2010.

City officials branded the act of Durano as "in defiance of the order of the President," saying that the DoT secretary has deprived the park employees of their salaries and benefits.

In 1995, former President Fidel V. Ramos issued Executive Order (EO) No. 224 creating the Burnham Park management committee, composed of representatives of the national and city governments. The committee is in charge of the administration, operation, and management of the park.

Initially, the PTA had been giving P18 million to the city as its annual aid, but this was reduced to P10 million in 2000.

In case Durano insists in scrapping the aid for the park, city officials said they are willing to enter into a compromise in which the fund assistance would be removed only if a bill in Congress seeking for the conversion of Burnham Park into a national park is approved.

At present, the city government is implementing a P12-million facelift project at the children’s park to ensure that it will conform with standards.

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