INDIGENOUS peoples in Barangay Happy Hallow, one of the 13 villages within Camp John Hay reservation, blocked Monday efforts by the government to construct a ranger guard house in the area.
In a letter dated March 26, John Hay Management Corporation (JHMC) operations manager Frank Daytec Jr. said the ranger house will safeguard the reservation from squatting, gathering of forest products including tree cutting without permits, and illegal construction, including repairs and extension of houses.
But families belonging to six clans of the Happy Hallow ancestral domain said the JHMC, the local arm of Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), failed to consult them when it decided to construct the ranger’s structure in Purok 3.
“The area used to be a horse patch. Above it is a vegetable garden,” said barangay councilman Pacita Medina, one of the barricaders and representative of the Otinguey clan.
Residents said there is no need for the JHMC to construct additional guard houses because just meters away from the proposed structure is another forest ranger station.
“It’s a waste of government money,” barangay councilman Joseph Sacley said while belying allegations of the JHMC that residents there have been cutting trees and undertaking construction without consent of the firm.
“We are not squatters here. This is our ancestral domain and we did not commit anything the JHMC is accusing us of,” residents told reporters.
Happy Hallow, being one of the barangays within the Camp John Hay reservation, was segregated for housing and residential purposes. It has not been subdivided yet owing to various requirements, including ancestral domain issues.
Sacley said had the JHMC consulted them, they would have suggested for the JHMC to construct a ranger house at the Voice of America area where people gather firewood from pine trees.
“But it was not us [the residents] who violated orders of the JHMC,” Sacley said, stressing outsiders are the ones cutting trees in forested sections of the reservation.
“We feel this is interference on the rights of indigenous peoples like us,” Sacley said.
He said the JHMC has to balance its role of safeguarding the reservation and the rights of residents.
“The BCDA protects its interests but the community also has to protect its interest,” Sacley said, as he vowed the six clans will not give up on their struggle of fighting for their rights.
The Happy Hallow barangay is the ancestral domain of the Canuto, Siso, Liwan, Paytocan, Otinguey and Pitlongay clans.
Far from the business district, Happy Hallow is one of the few remaining barangays that have pine trees, which Baguio is known for. It has a rustic ambience owing to its distance from other barangays.
The barangay is rich in natural spring water, has fertile soil, quiet neighborhood and unoccupied lands, reason some areas are being used as pasture land for cows and horses.
And despite its proximity to the city proper, its roads have been concreted for the barangay is where the circumferential road project traverses.
Happy Hallow is also one of the least populated in Baguio. Its residents are a mixture of Ibaloi and Kankanaey’s.