A GROUP of students from Benguet, Ifugao, Bontoc, Abra, and Kalinga wants to manage a property in Baguio City to stop the national government from reclaiming it and tearing down the dormitories built on it.

For years, the government lot on Harrison Road had housed dorms exclusively for students from the five provinces, but recently, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) announced plans to take over the property.

The Benguet, Ifugao, Bontoc, Abra, Kalinga Students Dormitories Inc. is contesting the takeover.

In a recent press conference, Raffy Wasan, a former member of the organization, proposed that the government hand control of the 5,000-square-meter property to the students who will convert it into a showcase Cordilleran community, patterned after the Tam-Awan village, where local gatherings or cultural performances can be held.

The original certificate title for the lot puts it squarely under DENR administration.

But a property tax declaration lists the student group as the lot owner.

The lot has a market value of P30,525,000. Its assessed value is P10,683,750.

"What we intend to do is just advance the existing tax declaration to a title," Wasan said.

However, the title cannot be transferred without the payment of the tax declaration.

Wasan said the student group has never paid taxes for the property.

"It is only during this time that we were considering consolidating these student organizations to a registered organization just to push and continue the purpose of the BIBAK," Wasan said, saying a consolidated interim group of students will raise money to pay the taxes.

He said the group supports City Hall's plan to demolish about 50 illegal structures in the area. (Giovanni Joy Fontanilla)