BAGUIO CITY – The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and the Baguio-Benguet Chapter of the Baguio Correspondents and Broadcasters Club (BCBC) in statements separately appealed to the national government to retain Philippine Information Agency (PIA) Cordillera office as the caretaker of the so-called the Cordillera House at the Mansion House compound here even if the structure is claimed by officials from Malacañang to be “weak” and “dilapidated” and needs major refurbishment.
A letter from Malacañang palace signed by the Deputy Secretary Rinaliza Justol sent to the central office of PIA advised that the PIA Cordillera should look for another office location and the Lualhati Guesthouse be turned over immediately.
According to the letter, the structure of the guest house was found to be structurally weak and needed a major renovation. The letter also revealed that, once the refurbishment of the property is finished, it will be converted into a cottage for the use of the Executive Secretary.
According to the NUJP, the PIA-Cordillera Regional Office housed at the Baguio Mansion House Complex in front of the Baguio Mansion House has long served as a center for trainings, seminars, meetings, caucuses, conferences and assemblies of journalists and media practitioners and their get togethers.
“The PIA Cordillera office is more than just an office accessible to its clientele in CAR but also to Northern and Central Luzon. It did not only serve the different administrations very well but also has been the government liaison to the media, both local and national press and to the Local Government Units and even other line agencies,” NUJP stated.
The NUJP mentioned that, in 2005, under the administration of President Fidel V. Ramos, with the re-organization of the national line agencies in the Cordillera Administrative Region, the demand for space for offices for the newly created agency branches or local offices grew.
In the absence or lack of government buildings for the local government line agencies, they had to rent private spaces. It was around this time that a decision to renovate and make use of the then Lualhati Cottage (Which was the cottage for the Minister of Information) to house the offices of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), and also to save it from expensive rent, and maximize the use of neglected or empty government buildings. It has since served as the PIA Cordillera official residence.
In a resolution, BCBC stressed that the Cordillera House which was well taken care of and nurtured by the staff of the PIA Cordillera for more than a decade, has sustained a sense of community among local officials and the media community both local and national.
“The atmosphere of camaraderie established here has helped in sustaining smooth and cordial interactions that can serve as a neutral venue for resolving local conflicts through the press activities held thereat,” according to BCBC.
The media club also stated that it has become a regular venue for “Kapihans” (press conferences) that contribute to minimizing government resources in imparting the programs of different government agencies.
“We of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines– Baguio-Benguet chapter, for all its historical significance and usefulness to the local journalism profession, and to the public, plead with the Office of the President to retain the former Lualhati Cottage as the official residence and hub of the PIA Cordillera. We request that it be retained and maintained as center for our window to government and for the public as well,” stated NUJP.