June 4, 2023

The city council in a resolution has requested Mayor Benjamin Magalong to re-examine the unimplemented demolition orders issued to settlers within the Busol forest reservation.

The council took a cue from the statements made by some residents and members of the Ambiong-Baguio, East Bayan, Brookspoint, Pacdal, and Peripheries Federation during their session on April 12.

In an interview, City Building Official Arch. Johnny Degay said 16 structures in the area were issued demolition orders, 11 of which were spared due to temporary restraining orders issued by the court. Three structures were dismantled by the city’s demolition team while one structure was partially torn down. One structure was demolished voluntarily by the owner.

Degay said some TROs already lapsed, but there is no definite date set yet for the continuation of the operation.

In a dialogue between the city government and the affected residents in 2019, the mayor and 150 individuals residing in the barangays straddling the Busol forest reserve agreed upon conditions where residents would help the local government preserve the watershed and protect the area from encroachment.

They also agreed to refrain from building more structures or undertaking any development in the area.

In a report of the Public Information Office, however, Magalong said an inspection showed that house extensions were done and new structures were built in violation of the agreement prompting the city government to order the demolition of these structures.

While acknowledging the lapses committed by some residents, lawyer Bernard Padang, overall coordinator of the federation, said some of the developments introduced were justified and reasonable citing instances where the house needed immediate repair or renovation.

Padang recognized the residents should have asked permission from the mayor first before having undertaken any repair or renovation.

For Councilor Benny Bomogao, careful deliberation may be done in cases where the dwellers only made minor repairs and extensions to make their shelters “more livable and sturdy.”

“For humanitarian reasons, maybe we could bring the matter to the mayor and negotiate with him. We could appeal to the mayor to take a second look at the cases of residents given demolition orders who have made minor repairs and extensions,” Bomogao said.

The resolution has been sent to the City Mayor’s Office.

Pacdal Punong Barangay Abraham Lagasca also appealed to the city officials for the deferment of the impending demolition of the remaining structures.

“This demolition is not timely. Given that we are experiencing a pandemic, we need time to prepare our people in these affected areas. In the event that this operation cannot be stopped, we should then be able to implement humane resettlement for these people,” Lagasca said. – Jordan G. Habbiling