In Baguio, curbs proposed to ease Sunday crowding
BAGUIO CITY, Benguet, Philippines — Turning a portion of the Session Road into a pedestrian mall every Sunday has benefited small business owners and helped improve the city’s coffers now that the local economy has begun to recover.
The program was started in 2019, backing a popular movement to free Session Road from vehicles to ease pollution.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020, Session Road provided a way for small entrepreneurs to earn a little.
As of September, the city’s “walking mall” has generated P49.2 million in gross sales for small businessmen like farmers, handicraft traders and even home cooks and bakers who participated in 66 Sunday events, according to a “Session Road Sunday Showcase” report that was submitted by city budget officer Leticia Clemente last month.
But according to Clemente, Baguio may have to hit the brakes to put order to these popular weekend activities, suggesting a cap on the number of buskers performing along the city’s main street.
Busking started with singers and musicians who performed for Mass-goers and tourists.
Last year, mimes joined the street performers, drawing young cosplayers (costumed performers) who posed for photographs in exchange for tips. In September and October, street dancers and “larpers” (live-action role players) began occupying key areas of the road and performing for large crowds.
The city council is reviewing a measure that would professionalize busking by requiring performers to secure permits and follow public performance rules, but the proposal drew a public backlash.
A Sept. 19 audit conducted by the city said 99 buskers performed along the 1.7-kilometer road.
“Buskers and their audience tend to crowd the areas around the booths, thus obstructing the view of the stall and customers,” the report said, adding that beggars were sometimes mistaken for buskers.
Because of the pandemic, Clemente suggested reducing the number of buskers to 50 each Sunday.
She also observed that the Sunday activities were supposed to adhere to zones, and food stalls were expected to offer al fresco dining services, which was not followed.
The city also dealt with products already available in the local market, as well as those that were imported or fake.
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