October 2, 2023

Uncertain about the outcome of negotiations between a company and the local government of Sablan, Benguet for the setup of a waste to energy (WTE) facility, Baguio City Administrator Bonifacio dela Peña said the city will pursue its land claim at Sto. Tomas, which it intends for various uses, foremost is for an engineered sanitary landfill.
Invited as one of the resource persons of the city council about the long-delayed development of the 138.5-hectare property, Dela Peña said a final survey is in the pipeline to delineate the claim of the city.
His immediate instruction to the General Services Office and the City Engineering Office is to survey areas that are “immediately recoverable” or those where the city government can immediately set up an engineered sanitary landfill, a materials recovery facility, and a WTE facility.
Dela Peña has informed the city council while the area has been classified by the City Planning and Development for mixed land use, only about 70 hectares is left “clear” or those where improvements may be done while the rest are covered by claims and applications.
There are about 200 applications of 200 square meters each for free patent and townsite sales application, while some have been issued tax declarations by the municipality of Tuba, Benguet.
GSO Head Eugene Buyucan also informed the city council 50 hectares out of the 70 hectares has initially been identified as solid waste management site but its final survey plan is pending with the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources Office because of the claims.
Both officials said with the survey pending, the city’s entire claim has not been pursued as well which resulted in more applications being filed at the DENR.
One of these applications is for the housing site of a group called Everlasting Pinegold Community Association, Inc. (Epcai) covering 28 hectares.
DENR Mapping Division head Ma. Dolores Balagat said the group’s claim is anchored on a me-morandum of understanding signed bet-ween officials of the housing association and former mayor Mauricio Domogan.
However, Balagat said the DENR also did not act on the claim as it is aware the area has been identified for city land needs.
But to perfect the city’s stake over the area, Balagat said the next step would be to submit a city council resolution affirming the area has been reserved for government use. This and other documents are what will be endorsed by the DENR for the issuance a presidential proclamation.
She said if a proclamation is issued, the area will be under the name of the city government, not to a particular person or entity.
To cut on costs, dela Peña said the city government will definitely pursue developing the Sto. Tomas property.
The city government earlier planned to allow a private entity to operate a WTE facility at a portion of the temporary waste containment area at Dontogan but talks have failed due to issues on tariff, dela Peña said.
“It will be our fallback in case talks in Sablan do not materialize,” he said.
Baguio is spending an average of P200 million for tipping and hauling fees to a landfill in Tarlac. Expenditure is expected to decrease as the city government will soon resume transporting its wastes to a landfill in Urdaneta City, Pangasinan.
To further cut on costs, dela Peña said the best option will be to dispose waste right within Baguio.
Meanwhile, Councilor Peter Fianza reminded dela Peña and Buyuccan that along with plans of developing the city’s unperfected claim at Sto. Tomas, they should make sure that a landfill at the area is included in the city’s land use plan, otherwise the local government will not be able to secure an environmental compliance certificate from the Environment Management Bureau.
The city council approved 10 actions to facilitate the city’s claim at Sto. Tomas. Among these are the removal of Epcai’s name as an applicant in the area claimed by the city; for concerned offices to submit to the city council an updated solid waste management plan; urge the DENR to set aside all other applications for patent or TSA; and for the City Buildings and Architecture Office to investigate and submit a report of areas where structures have been built. – Rimaliza A. Opina