THE newly approved Environment Code of Baguio City has given the City Government boost to intensify its anti-squatting campaign.

City Building and Architecture Office (CBAO) head Nazita Bañez said the code contains specific provisions mandating concerned offices to demolish on-going constructions on road rights-of-way, parks, forest and water reservations and other protected areas.

It also tasked the City Environment and Parks Management Office (Cepmo) “to primarily lead the collective actions of various agencies including the CBAO, Dept. of Environmental and Natural Resources, Dept. of Public Works and Highways, city engineering office, barangays and the city legal office to file cases against the illegal settlers and to impose the penal provision of fine or imprisonment.”

In her report before city officials and employees led by Mayor Mauricio Domogan and Vice Mayor Edison Bilog, Bañez said for this semester, the investigation section of the CBAO has received 290 complaints on squatting activities.

As per CBAO’s procedure, the complaints are subjected to investigations with the results forwarded to the anti-illegal squatting committee for deliberation.

“Demolitions are scheduled on a first-in-first-out basis with the occupants given 30 days to voluntarily demolish and vacate the area or the city demolition team will destroy the structure and even confiscate the materials to be used for government projects,” Bañez said.

Bañez said while the city has a set of procedure in tackling existing illegal structures on private lots, the city, through the Cepmo, should also focus on establishing a system on the prevention of the squatting activities in critical areas and the filing of charges against those responsible using the provisions of the environment code.

The CBAO chief said the code’s provisions focusing on critical or high-risk areas and the protection and management of special lands should also be strictly implemented in line with the city’s disaster risk management thrust.

“During calamities and rainy or typhoon season, it is the illegal settlers that are affected the most since their structures are built on critical slopes without any compliance to the National Building Code, National Structural Code of the Philippines and these structures are not permitted,” Banez said.

The code specifies the city will not allow constructions on critical slopes without conducting soil tests and introducing appropriate engineering interventions.

Approved last year, the code serves as a blueprint to maintain the city as an eco-cultural tourist destination with emphasis on the protection and management of lands particularly the protected areas covering national parks, natural monuments, parks, protected landscapes, resource reserves, strict nature reserves and wildlife sanctuaries. (Aileen Refuerzo)