BAGUIO CITY—The summer capital’s newest attraction is an empty Burnham Lake.
Throngs of camera-wielding visitors and residents have been crowding the century-old man-made lake since Saturday to watch government workers drain it for a three-week dredging and cleaning project.
The P20.9-million project intends to correct flaws in the city’s American-built drainage networks so the lake would no longer serve as a discharge area for downtown’s runoff rainwater, according to Cordelia Lacsamana, city environment and parks officer.
It complements the city government’s plan to rehabilitate polluted Balili River because most runoff water in the downtown area is channeled to the river before it flows toward the neighboring La Trinidad town in Benguet, Lacsamana said.
Balili, one of the four major rivers in the Baguio-Benguet area, flows through 70 barangays in the city.
“The repairs will include plugging all drain pipes that spill out rainwater into the lake,” Lacsamana said.
All 90 rental boats at the lake were stored elsewhere when workers began draining 17-million liters of lake water on Saturday.
On Monday, backhoes dug a meter of silt from the lake bed that was last dredged in 1994. Nearby, men trawled the remaining pockets of water for tilapia and Japanese koi, which were collected and stored at the park’s swimming pool, the pond at the children’s playground and at Wright Park.
The koi will be returned to the lake when contractors fill it up again with 34-million liters of water on Jan. 25, in time for the staging of this year’s Baguio Flower Festival in February.
Lacsamana said the government would allow people to consume the tilapia from the lake. People who lined up at the lakeside were given the fish by the boatmen. The biggest catch made on Saturday was a 2-foot tilapia.
Workers also unearthed a fragmentation grenade and a .357 cal. pistol, along with wallets and mobile phones.
Lacsamana said the six boat rental concessionaires were informed about the dredging project in December. They said they were willing to cope with the losses for three weeks in exchange for an improved lake, complete with a new fountain.
“They did not ask for a tax holiday covering January,” Lacsamana said.
All 90 boats are rented out for P100 for a 30-minute ride through the lake, one concessionaire said. During peak months, when tourists rent boats from
7 a.m. to 10 p.m., they earn as much as P270,000 a day. With reports from Richard Balonglong and Jhoanna Marie Buenaobra, Inquirer Northern Luzon