May 23, 2024

In response to the escalating number of demolition orders in the city, members of the Baguio City Council discussed concerns regarding the recent surge in demolition activities during the regular session on Feb. 5.

Councilor Jose Molintas said there is an escalating number of demolition notices issued to residents, highlighting specific areas like Camp Allen, Navy Base, and Philippine Military Academy where the households face potential displacement due to aggressive demolition activities undertaken by the city.

The councilor emphasized the need for the government to be adequately prepared to address the housing needs of affected households, especially considering the historical significance and community development in these areas.

Sharing similar concerns and perspectives regarding demolition, Councilors Rocky Aliping and Peter Fianza called for a comprehensive review of the situation, particularly in areas like Camp Allen.

They explained the historical context of Camp Allen’s development, noting its transformation from a former military reservation into a thriving community with thousands of residents.

They raised concerns about the impact of demolition activities on the residents, stressing the need for the city government to consider the welfare and rights of those living in the affected areas as well as the investment of local and national funds in the area.

Aliping urged the City Building and Architecture Office to reconsider these demolition orders and suggested that legal and legislative considerations should precede demolition actions.

Seeking clarification on the Pambansang Pabahay Program and its provisions related to identifying government lots or reservations for social housing sites, Fianza emphasized the role of the local government units in identifying such areas in the process of making such identifications.

Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan said there is a need for legal compliance and procedural correctness in demolition activities.

He cited the necessity of seeking legal advice and adhering to legal requirements, including recent laws or Supreme Court decisions related to demolitions. 

Joining the city council in the dialogue, Engr. Stephen Capuyan, CBAO assistant department head, said the CBAO proceeds with demolition only if there is a final decision, either from the mayor or the court which authorizes such action.

He said their office adheres to legal processes and obtains clear objectives before initiating any demolition.

Capuyan further clarified they refer old demolition orders to the City Legal Office for review. If there are no legal impediments, they implement the order.

He added they exercise caution and await the final decision of the court in cases where there is pending litigation or legal challenges related to the demolition orders. 

Meanwhile, Hennylou Cacas, representative of the Human Settlement and Urban Development (DHSUD), offered insights into the process of relocation and demolition.

She said the DHSUD’s mandate involves facilitating requests for land verification and convening the Pre-Proclamation Committee to screen these requests.

She said there is a need for proactive planning through local shelter plans, which identify relocation sites for households facing displacement due to infrastructure projects or for those individuals residing in danger areas.

She mentioned the city’s Luna Terraces Socialized Housing Project and the incoming housing development in Topinao, Tuba Benguet, but said these projects might not adequately accommodate all the informal settlers in the city.

She further acknowledged the significant backlog of households needing relocation.

She also discussed the challenges posed by military reservations and the need to navigate complex legal and administrative processes in resolving issues related to prior property rights and occupancy.

The city council referred the matter to the committee on laws, human rights, and justice for further study and appropriate action.  – Jordan G. Habbiling