Issue of May 27, 2012
Mt. Province

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Tree park may be saved as GSIS agrees to land swap
by Harley Palangchao / Rimaliza Opiña

The tree park near the Baguio Convention Center, by some indications, can be preserved if the land swap deal between the city government and Government Service Insurance System materializes.

On Wednesday, GSIS Chief Counsel Katrina Legarda and three other lawyers of the State-pension agency met with Mayor Mauricio Domogan and conveyed that the board is now open to an out of court settlement through a land swapping agreement.

The GSIS is eyeing portion of the Wright Park, but this might not materialize as the mayor informed the group tha t a certificate of ancestral land title was issued in the area. He instead suggested an area at the Green Valley as a possible site.

The area measures 20 hectares and was previously identified for public use such as for buildings of the city government, City Legal Officer Melchor Rabanes said.

It was the city government that took the initiative to propose to GSIS a land swap deal after city officials, including the mayor, acknowledged the strong opposition by various sectors of the earlier plan by GSIS and SM Development Corp. to develop the area.

Domogan said the city government has until June 15 to present possible city-owned lots, which can be swapped to the 14,430-square meter property of GSIS.

Legarda said if the board agrees, a memorandum of understanding can be signed between the GSIS and the city government. Pending that, she said the agency is also ironing out some problems in the technical description of the property.

Legarda said the Land Registration Authority erred in the technical description which made it appear that the GSIS enroached on the property of the Balajadia’s. Along with the city government, she said the GSIS is also settling this.

GSIS acquired the property, including the Baguio Convention Center through Presidential Decree 396 penned by the late president Ferdinand Marcos.

But recently, information surfaced that the tree park appeared to be covered by Original Certificate Title 1, which means that the land swap deal is not necessary.

GSIS earlier questioned the action of the former city council when it adopted City Ordinance 51, s. of 2001 as amended declaring the woodland as park and garden as per the comprehensive land use and zoning regulations of the city.

GSIS officials learned that the woodland was classified as park and garden based on the certification issued to an SMDC official which stated that the Baguio Convention Center is within an institutional zone while the forested area is not.

The state pension agency eventually filed an administrative case against past and present city officials over the botched project before the Ombudsman “for usurpation of legislative powers and violation of Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for passing and implementing Ordinance 51, which was the basis of the city in disapproving the GSIS’ application for a building permit for its condotel project dubbed as Baguio Air Residences.

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