March 24, 2023

Majority of the Baguio City Council members refused to support the call for the issuance of clearances and permits to business owners occupying parcel 3 of Forbes forest reservation. 

Nine members abstained from voting on the motion of Councilor Benny Bomogao to pass a resolution in favor of businesses situated within the forest reservation.

Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda, one of the councilors who abstained, said issuance of business permits will legitimize their occupancy in the protected area.

“The implication of issuing them business permits is that we are now allowing them to occupy the forest reservation. You cannot operate a business therein without occupying it,” Tabanda said.  

Bomogao, on the other hand, said legitimizing the economic enterprise of the affected individuals does not equate to giving them the right to own the land.

He claimed certain policies are not in conformity with the current times, thus are impractical. He said for decades, some individuals had been occupying certain portions of lands in the city that are declared as forest reservations.

“I think the city government should adopt a more liberal way of encouraging and supporting people engaged in business, so long as they have a title or tax declaration. These people have been there for decades. Yes, these lands are declared as forest reservations, but does that mean we will kill these people’s livelihood?” Bomogao said.

The discussion was prompted by the appeal of a sari-sari store owner at Purok 3, Gibraltar.

Evelyn Wales, representative of Department of Environment and Natural Resources confirmed that the sari-sari store is within the Forbes forest reservation.

The sari-sari store owner sought the help of the city council after receiving a notice of violation issued by the Permits and Licensing Division for operating without business permit which is a violation of the Tax Ordinance. The notice ordered her to immediately stop from continuing her business. 

The issue was referred to the committee on market, trade and commerce, and agriculture for further study. 

Forbes forest reservation was established on Feb. 9, 1924 as a reservation and bird sanctuary by Governor General Leonard Wood under the jurisdiction of the then Bureau of Forestry.

It covers three parcels of land, with parcel 1 having a land area of 298,510 square meters; parcel 2 with a land area of 168,615 square meters; and parcel 3 with an area of 212,266 square meters. – Jordan G. Habbiling