June 14, 2024

The city government is planning to build possibly with a private partner another economic zone or housing site at a property it is about to acquire in Topinao, Tuba, Benguet.

As land is already scarce in Baguio, the City Planning and Development Office is venturing into purchase of lots in La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, Tuba, and Tublay  (Listt) for future use.

The first to be bought for land banking are two parcels of land measuring a total of 6.3 hectares at a cost of P95,377,000 in Tuba, near the Pinewoods Golf Club and Country Club at Barangay Asin, Baguio.

Funds for the purchase have been appropriated in the 2020 annual investment plan. 

A draft of the deed of absolute sale to be signed by Mayor Benjamin Magalong and property owners William and Hazel Dominique Tan has been submitted to the city council for review and issuance of authority to sign the document.

At the city council session last May 23, CPDO head Donna Tabangin said in anticipation of the need for more areas where Baguio can accommodate a growing population which will necessarily require more houses, sites for future investments and development, and possibly more green areas, Baguio should start looking for areas outside its territory for possible expansion in the future. 

In the land use plan of Tuba, the property is presently classified as an agricultural land.

Tabangin said the CPDO and other concerned departments has yet to plan the appropriate type of development for the area but assured that public funds will not go to waste as any improvement in the area will always be in consonance with the land use plan of Tuba.

She said pursuing purchase of properties for future use is strategically planning forthcoming land use and business climate in Baguio.

She added Tuba will benefit from the purchase through the real property tax that the City of Baguio will pay.

Some members of the city council are apprehensive about the purchase since the area will not be used yet and Baguio has not fully recovered from the expenses it has incurred for its Covid-19 response.

Councilor Mylen Yaranon, who also happens to be an urban planner, said the purchase price appeared affordable but the cost of development might be too high because of its uneven topography.

Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda said land banking is a long-term plan, but when she quizzed Tabangin if property procurement is in the city’s priority development plan, the CPDO head said this has yet to be included in the city development plan.

She added building a housing site for residents of Baguio in an area outside of the city’s jurisdiction, no longer makes them constituents of Baguio.  

Councilor Benny Bomogao said there is no feasibility study about the cost of development, no cost-benefit analysis for a housing site or economic zone, and there is no study about the appropriate industry for the area. 

Tabangin said all these will be done when the city already owns the property.

Magalong, who also attended the council’s session, said if the city government is able to define the most appropriate development in the area, jobs can be generated and funds spent for the purchase can be immediately recovered.

He said he has been receiving several offers from investors but could not be pursued because of the absence of an area where development may be done.

The mayor said the Topinao property could be an expansion site for the Baguio Economic Zone, a housing site, and even a drone landing area.

Magalong said if offered a reasonable price, the city government should buy more properties in the Listt so it will be able to generate more jobs through land improvement and more revenue through investment.

The city council has scheduled an inspection at the site on May 31 before it will act on the request of the mayor for authority to sign the DOAS. – Rimaliza A. Opiña