City opposes ancestral land title issuance-A A +A
By JM Agreda
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
SEVERAL city officials expressed their opposition on Monday to the continued issuance of ancestral land titles in several watersheds and public forests in the Baguio City.
Environment committee chairman Councilor Erdolfo Balajadia expressed his contention to the continued issuance of ancestral land claims claiming the titling of some watersheds if left unabated will endanger the remaining watersheds in the city such as in Busol, Buyog, and Camp Eight.
Balajadia, who is also the Chairman of the Baguio Regreening Movement, sought the help of the City Government to react and ask the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) why they continue issuing and accepting ancestral land applications in declared watersheds of the city.
He said the Busol watershed alone contributes around 38 percent of Baguio’s water needs and supplies water to some 20 barangays comprising an estimated 10,000 households or around 60,000 individuals.
He asked the city to admonish these issuances and ask the NCIP to look at these applications which have been issued arbitrarily.
Balajadia and the BRM had recently been issued a temporary restraining order from continuing their environmental activities inside the claimed property after the NCIP issued a temporary restraining order to claimants effective July 5 until the next hearing of their case on July 17.
He said it is highly questionable because the land claimant made the application on the land only last July 2 and they were immediately issued the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO). The same TRO does not also detail the basis why it was given to the claimants.
Mayor Mauricio Domogan said they have already informed NCIP lawyer John Libiran of Baguio city’s opposition to the titling of lots in Busol and other remaining public forests.
Domogan said several Supreme Court decisions in the past have already declared watersheds as inalienable and beyond the commerce of man.
The mayor explained the city is opposing the issued ancestral land titles after November 1997 when the Indigenous People’s Rights Act was passed.
However, he does not discount the legitimacy of previously issued ancestral land and domain titles prior to the enactment of the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA) which include 48 claims recognized in 1922, the more than 200 ancestral land titles issued in the 1950s various other titles issued by virtue of administrative orders from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources during former president Corazon Aquino’s administration.
The mayor maintained the city’s opposition to NCIP’s titling of areas such as Busol watershed, Forbes Park, Botanical Garden, Wright Park and lots beside Casa Vallejo.
The City Legal Office, the mayor said, have been in close coordination with the office of the Solicitor general in pursuing the case against the titling of these forested lands particularly in Forbes park Reservation.
Mayor Domogan emphasized their opposition to all ancestral land titles that do not adhere to Section 78 of the IPRA claiming “Baguio remains to be governed by its Charter and all lands proclaimed as part of its town site reservation shall remain as such until otherwise reclassified by appropriate legislation.”
The same provision also states “prior land rights and titles recognized and required through any judicial, administrative or other processes before the effectivity of IPRA shall remain valid provided that it does not apply to any territory which becomes part of the City of Baguio after the law becomes effective.”
The mayor added the City Assessor’s Office should not accept payments or honor tax declarations especially to ancestral lands applications in watersheds.
He added the NCIP should be taking the case up to the Supreme Court where past decisions backing the city’s opposition to the issuance of titles in watersheds have been previously resolved.
The city mayor urged the city council to draft a resolution declaring their opposition to the continued issuance of ancestral land titles in watersheds.
The mayor also asked City Environment and Parks Management Office to furnish them with the complete list of remaining watersheds in the city so that officials could inform the NCIP that these too are inalienable.
City Legal officer Melchor Carlos Rabanes also said that in 2009, the city already expressed its opposition in a letter to the NCIP preventing any and all applications involving Busol watershed.
Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda expressed her fear that continued issuance of ancestral lands may also affect other public lands that are intended for barangay use or other purposes such as schools.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on July 11, 2012.