April 20, 2024

■  Hanna C. Lacsamana   

The city council has expressed reservations about the latest House bill filed by Baguio Rep. Marquez Go, which pertains to the segregation of the 13 barangays surrounding the Camp John Hay reservation that is under supervision of the Bases Conversion Development Authority.

The segregation has been a long-time clamor of the city and residents of the affected barangays.

On Oct. 26, Go filed House Bill 9428 entitled “Declaring as alienable and disposable certain parcels of land of the public domain located in the City of Baguio for disposition to actual and qualified applicants, thereby excluding the said lands from the coverage of Republic Act 7227 and Proclamation No. 420, s. 1994 which transferred John Jay Air Station to BCDA”.

Among other salient provisions, the bill includes the technical descriptions and respective land measurements to be excluded for barangays Greenwater, Sta. Scholastica, Hillside, Upper Dagsian, Lower Dagsian, Camp 7, Loakan Liwanag, Loakan-Apugan, Loakan Proper, Happy Hallow, Country Club, and Lucnab.

Barangay Scout Barrio has been segregated by virtue of an executive order issued by former Pres. Gloria Arroyo.

In its position paper contained in Resolution 762, s. 2023 passed during its session on Dec. 5, the city council said the bill “will need proper study and further consultations”.

This is because the areas in the different barangays to be segregated from John Hay as provided in the bill will require identification, verification, and validation for proper appreciation.

The council said the system of segregation in the bill that appears to be like the Scout Barrio model may not be appropriate for application for the areas covered by the bill and that the proceeds of the sales of the lots should not only be for the BCDA.

Section 8 of HB 9428 provides among others that all proceeds to be generated in the disposition of the lands to bona fide occupants shall accrue to BCDA.

The council also said the bill should consider total segregation of the barangays as requested to be done in accordance with Resolution 152, s. 2013, taking note of the fact the segregation undertaken for Scout Barrio was not complete as generated lots covering unoccupied areas and institutional areas that included roads and areas occupied by a school, church, police outpost, public structures, and others are yet to be transferred.

The council stressed the need for public consultations with stakeholders, and that barangay segregation can be mutually agreed upon between the city and the BCDA in consultation with the affected barangays before the enactment of a law for its implementation.

The council also stood that with the segregation, it is expected that BCDA will have no control and may not interfere with the governance in said areas; and some of the areas that are ancestral domains and with ancestral claims should also be addressed in the consultations.

In a press conference on Dec. 14, Councilor Peter Fianza, chair of the committee on laws that is tasked to collate issues pertaining initially to the Revised City Charter of Baguio and to which the segregation bill was also referred, said the bill was presented during a consultation called by Go on Dec. 9 with the punong barangays of the 13 barangays and select councilors.

The PBs manifested their support when asked whether or not they are supporting the bill, however, Fianza observed there was no discussion on how the segregation will be effected.

“The provision of the bill on how it will be implemented was not truly discussed. In fact, the first issue is where actually in the barangays are the areas to be segregated as identified in the bill,” Fianza said.

He added it has always been the clamor of the city that the segregation of the 13 barangays should be a total segregation.

“It does not matter who are residing in the barangays. We wanted the segregation of the barangay as a whole,” Fianza said.

Councilor Jose Molintas opined the House bill, instead of serving best interests of the city and the 13 barangays is favoring the BCDA.

“One of the provisions of the bill is that lands will be sold and the proceeds will go to BCDA and our forest covers instead of the DENR having jurisdiction over it will be under BCDA. So there is no provision actually segregating the area but only delineating some parts of the BCDA territory. Where is segregation if it’s not exclusion? This is only something like a demarcation of what is the special economic zone and what is going to be sold. So everything is giving us no alternative except to have it sold for the benefit of BCDA,” Molintas said.

He added the position in the city council as early as 1994 is exclusion from the BCDA. 

“It is anti-barangays, anti-city, and anti-DENR, because everything is to be given to the BCDA which is not our position in the city council,” he added.

In an interview with Midland Courier on Dec. 15, Go belied not conducting consultations about HB 9428, but conducted the same following the processes of the Congress, which has its own rules and procedures.

“I am just the author of the bill. The one in charge of the conduct of consultations is the committee to where a bill is referred, in this case to the House Committee on Natural Resources. But just the same, we have presented the draft bill to the stakeholders on Oct. 25 before the filing of the bill on Oct. 26, and again last Dec. 9, where all of PBs agreed to the bill, subject to amendments,” Go said, reiterating the HB is open for amendments which will be incorporated in the proposal if these are found as valid concerns or inputs.

In fact the PBs raised issues on recognition of ancestral rights which Go agreed to incorporate in the draft among other proposed amendments.

On Scout Barrio, Go said HB 9428 would in fact cure its incomplete segregation as provided in Sections 5 and 6, which provides among others that community facilities including barangay halls, parks, playgrounds, multipurpose areas shall be transferred to the city government of Baguio and public elementary and secondary schools shall be turned over to the Department of Education; and that forest areas under existing proclamations, areas occupied by national government agencies with existing agreements with BCDA or the John Hay Management Corp. including but not limited to water and natural resources shall remain as public lands which may not be disposed and shall be under the care and supervision of BCDA-JHMC.

Go added all the proposed amendments will be consolidated and submitted to the Committee on Natural Resources for incorporation in the bill based on the author’s suggestions.

He said the concept of total segregation has no legal basis. There is BCD law that must be followed and they could not just unilaterally give it or else they will not be doing their job. So there must be a law providing it,” Go said.

He also strongly denied favoring the BCDA.

“I have no vested interests in filing of the bill but to finally realize the long-time clamor of the affected residents and city for the John Hay segregation. If you read the bill, where do you see that I am favoring BCDA? The mere fact we are segregating it, removing it from them, but with conditions on how to realize it,” Go said.