Issue of August 11, 2013
     
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CALTs seen as threat to city’s public lands
by Harley Palangchao

Ancestral land claims that cover even portions of watersheds and reservations in Baguio, including part of The Mansion, are the most serious problem the city and its people are facing today.

“A representative from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has informed us that almost one-fifth of our total land area is covered by ancestral land claims,” Mayor Mauricio Domogan told reporters Wednesday.

Baguio has a land area of 57.50 square kilometers. A recent study shows the number of people per square kilometer in the city is 4,389, or 17 times higher than the national average.

The mayor, however, said former National Commission on Indigenous Peoples chair Brigida Pawid assured him last month the agency will act on the matter.

Pawid is now the NCIP commissioner for Cordillera and regions 1 and 2.

He added City Legal Officer Melchor Rabanes has informed him recently that at least two Malacañang officials with rank of undersecretaries mentioned the issue on CALTs in Baguio has reached the Office of the President.

Domogan said it is appalling that even identified forest reservations and parks like the Forbes and Wright, including the frontage of The Mansion, were covered by previously awarded certificates of ancestral land titles.

“Even Loakan Airport and portion of the Philippine Military Academy are covered by ancestral claims. This (questionable ancestral land claims) is the most serious problem Baguio is facing today,” Domogan said.

The mayor also decried even the multi-agency clearing committee formed in 2010 with a mandate to screen ancestral land claims in the city is being sidelined by the concerned agencies.

To recall, Domogan, who was then a congressman, former mayor Reinaldo Bautista Jr. met with then Oversight Committee on Indigenous Peoples chair Sylvestre Bello III and former NCIP Chair Eugenio Insigne in the wake of the Forbes Park lot controversy.

As an offshoot of the meeting, the NCIP en banc passed a resolution supporting the creation of a city clearing committee to screen ancestral land applications in Baguio.

NCIP then acknowledged a screening was necessary, considering the complex situation of the city being a townsite reservation as against the Indigenous People’s Rights Act provisions. Section 78 of the IPRA states the city is exempt from the provisions of the IPRA as the section provides that “it will remain to be governed by its charter and all lands proclaimed as part of the townsite reservation shall remain as such.”

But the section also provides “prior land rights and titles recognized and/or acquired through any judicial, administrative or other processes before the affectivity of this Act shall remain valid.” Igorot claims that existed before November 1997 are therefore covered by the IPRA.

“We don’t have problems with ancestral land claims for as long as these are valid,” Domogan said, as he iterated the city’s stand that it recognizes claims prior to the effectivity of the IPRA law shall remain valid.

He earlier said some of the approved certificates of ancestral land titles were issued after the effectivity of the IPRA, which took effect in November 1997.

In 2010, NCIP reported there are now 160 CALTs in Baguio City, 56 of which have been registered with the Land Registration Authority, as well as the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title of Happy Hallow barangay.



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