Since opening on 15 May 2021, the Igorot Stone Kingdom in Baguio City has attracted innumerable travellers from all over. But on 8 Nov 2022, Mayor Benjamin Magalong ordered the closure of the Igorot-themed park.
Why Baguio ordered the closure of the Igorot Stone Kingdom
According to a Facebook post by the Baguio City Public Information Office, the man-made tourist attraction has been operating without a business permit. “The stone structures inside are not covered by a building permit which puts the structural integrity of these constructions in question,” the statement read.
Allegedly, the site had previously been asked to comply with building requirements but has yet to address its violations. As a result, the City Buildings and Architecture Office on 7 Nov filed a criminal case for a breach of the National Building Code.
Moreover, the Climate Risk and Vulnerability Assessment (CRVA) and the Mines and Geo-Sciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (MGB-DENR) assessed the structure as prone to landslides and erosions. Thus, Mayor Magalong said: “We have to be proactive. We can’t wait for something bad to happen before we act.”
Igorot Stone Kingdom responds to allegations
In an interview, owner Pio Velasco addressed the closure of the Igorot Stone Kingdom.
“We respect the city government’s decision to close us prior to our court trials to refurbish the requirements they asked us to do. Medyo nadedelay lang kasi maraming problema sa mga pre-requisites. Nevertheless, we will be opening soon kapag nacomply-an na namin,” Velasco said.
Responding to the concerns over safety, Velasco also assured the people that the site is structurally stable.
“The Stone Kingdom is a landslide-protection structure,” he said in the same interview. “Ang problema lang natin is hindi pa nacecertify ng City Engineering Office yung soundness and safety of our structures.”
Protected with riprap, the Igorot Stone Kingdom employed landslide mitigation techniques to prevent erosion. “Our track records show that [the structure] will stand the test of earthquakes, the test of typhoons,” Velasco continued.
Not only does the closure of the Igorot Stone Kingdom affect tourists interested in visiting the site, but the order also impacts the lives of its employees. According to Velasco, over 70 vendors and employees will be temporarily furloughed until the attraction is permitted to operate again.
Nevertheless, Velasco looks forward to the reopening of the Igorot Stone Kingdom. “Sa mga turista, sa Facebook na muna tayo. Irecycle nalang muna natin mga pictures natin sa Stone Kingdom.”
Featured image credit: Neil Ongchangco via Baguio City Public Information Office | Official Facebook Page