“This great hill station is now in a critical status”

Baguio City, one of the great hill stations of Asia.

For the past twenty one years (1988-2009), Baguio City has been transformed physically, as indicated by an almost 3-fold increase in its built-up area at the expense of its forest cover, cropland and brushland areas. The LUC change patterns show that in recent years there has been increasing pressure on the remaining valuable urban green spaces to be converted into built-up. This is an alarming trend as the remaining forest cover is the main source of valuable ecosystem services in the city.

The LUC changes from 1988 to 2009 have greatly affected the total annual ESV of Baguio City. In 1988, the City’s total annual ESV was US$5.35 million, but this decreased to US$3.47 million in 1998 and US$2.15 million in 2009. Coupled with rapid population growth, the LUC changes had also impacted the H-ESV ratio in the City, which decreased from 1:31 (US$/year) in 1988 to 1:15 and 1:7 in 1998 and 2009, respectively. The scenario-based future LUC change projections showed that if built-up continued to expand in any area, including forested areas, the City’s annual ESV in 2020 would be about US$1.41 million with an H-ESV ratio of 1:4. However, if forest cover were fully protected and conserved, the City’s annual ESV in 2020 would be about US$1.97 million with an H-ESV ratio of 1:6.

Needless to say, even if the City Government of Baguio allowed the trend of LUC change (magnitude of built-up expansion) to continue until 2020,such change might not necessarily affect the City’s ecosystem services at the same extent as in the previous years. However, that is only the case if the forest cover were fully protected and conserved.

Hence, the scenario analysis highlights the need to strengthen the implementation of policies related to natural landscape conservation and protection in order to minimize the potential impact of LUC changes on the overall ESV of Baguio City.

There is compelling evidence from this to conclude that the guiding principles laid by Burnham for the sustainable development of Baguio City have been neglected, and that this great hill station is now in a critical status.

It is important that the City government re-assess the carrying capacity of Baguio so that the City’s remaining natural resources would not be taxed beyond their limits. To avoid further jeopardizing valuable ecosystem services, future landscape conservation and urban development planning activities of the City Government should take into consideration the study’s findings with regard to LUC change and ecosystem services. They should also adopt modern geospatial technologies as tools for exploratory analyses of the potential environmental impact of any proposed LUC change or physical development.

For Baguio to become a sustainable city, it must achieve a balance among environmental protection, economic development, and social well-being.

Spatial Analysis of Ecosystem Service Value Changes in Baguio City, the Philippines, Based on Land Use/Cover Changes, A Doctoral Dissertation, University of Tsukuba, Ronald C. Estoque, Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University, Philippines.

The full document is available here.

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