Cemetery expansion mulled-A A +A
By JM Agreda
Thursday, October 31, 2013
EVEN the dead are displaced by informal settlers at the Baguio City public cemetery.
With some 19,000 tombs occupying the nine hectare property, the Baguio City public cemetery sadly mirrors the state of Baguio’s public lands slowly being occupied by informal settlers much to the discontent of local officials who could hardly contain the migration of people.
Mayor Mauricio Domogan has intimated plans for expanding to adjacent lots if there are available spaces left or find a site outside the city to be used as alternative relocation of the overflowing public cemetery.
Situated some 5,000 meters above sea level, the city cemetery built in 1932 then at the city outskirts along Naguilian Road has piles of tombs stacked like condominiums for the dead.
However, Mayor Domogan said many people still prefer traditional means of burial rather than cremation, a practice known to Western cultures to be acceptable which Cordillerans have not yet accepted, reason why burying of the dead remains a need for the city.
The crematorium near the public cemetery is hardly used.
Among some Cordillera families, burying their dead beside their homes is practiced for daily visits and maintenance.
But with almost all available land occupied in the city, officials observed only a few families with large landholdings continue to practice this tradition.
To address the current need for additional burial space, Domogan has instructed the City Legal Office to come up with measures to force informal settlers to pay the city government for the lands they have occupied.
“It is unfortunate that a big portion of the Baguio Cemetery has been squatted upon a long time ago and it has been tolerated in the past,” he said.
The mayor said it is about time the city asks informal settlers occupying the periphery and the cemetery to pay the local government for the lands. The city government could use the payments to acquire another land for a cemetery, not necessarily along Naguilian Road as long as it is accessible to the public.
Last year, a rehabilitation and development plan was also conceptualized after the mayor issued Administrative Orders 111-2012 and 58-2012, setting the guidelines and policies on the cemetery’s operation and services and creating a technical working group to study the possibility of rehabilitating and expanding the cemetery.
In an earlier interview, City Environment and Parks Management Officer Cordelia Lacsamana said they are still in the process of zoning the tombs. The city must also prescribe the size, height, design and physical attributes of the place creating a semblance of balance of existing structures.
The city mayor also ordered in setting policies for the administration of the cemetery prohibiting new residential structures near its periphery.
To further set order, families of the dead are now required to sign a waiver and agreement with the city for a five-year tenancy period with a corresponding burial permit fee to be paid prior to occupying a portion of the public cemetery.
The order also halts the construction of new and the improvement of existing mausoleums.
Design of tombs must conform to the Sanitation Code while other policies on exhumation of remains, prohibition of liquor and intoxicating drinks, stockpiling of construction materials, banning of vendors , accessibility of roads, alleys and pathways, setting-up of pauper’s burial for indigents were also set in place.
Lacsamana admitted, however, the city still has a long way to go in imposing the order strictly since the 5-year tenancy fee is always one-time while succeeding payments have not yet been collected.
But Domogan is determined to impose order in the cemetery with utmost respect for the dead and their tombs which, he stressed, is the responsibility of relatives.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on October 31, 2013.