Group opposes fencing of entire Busol reservation
Residents within the Busol Watershed appealed to the city council to reconsider the proposed ordinance which, if and when approved, would mandate the fencing of the entire Busol forest reservation Baguio side, which is covered by Proclamation 15.
The proposed ordinance in question seeks to establish, maintain, protect, and conserve identified communal forests, watersheds, parks, tree parks, spring lots, greenbelts, urban green zones, and other similar forest development projects in the city.
The Baguio side is one of the reservations identified by the proposed ordinance.
Section 3 of the proposed ordinance states all identified areas shall be fenced off and shall be put up with appropriate signages indicating these are protected areas.
The inhabitants, occupants, and claimants of the reservation and members of the Ambiong-Baguio, East Bayan, Brookspoint, Pacdal, and Peripheries (ABEBBPAP) Federation submitted to the city council their position paper opposing the inclusion of the entire reservation as a protected area to be fenced off.
The position paper stated the provision of the proposed ordinance requiring the fencing of the reservation and with no limit or restriction, flexibility, guidelines, or qualifications is “distressing, causing too much anxiety and pain, too dangerous, and totally provocative.”
The position paper suggested that the fencing and installation of signages should only focus on and be limited to the wholly unoccupied portions of the forest reservation. It also called for a declaration or statement by the city government recognizing the communities in the area.
The Busol Baguio side straddles barangays Pacdal, Ambiong, East Bayan Park, and Brookspoint.
According to the ABEBBPAP Federation, there are 758 houses at the Baguio side alone with the most in number in Pacdal and Ambiong. The federation also claimed there are about 4,500 permanent residents with indigenous peoples constituting majority of the population.
The position paper also suggested the total land area of the Baguio side should be determined accurately. It pointed out the total land area of the Baguio side is currently inconclusive as the proposed ordinance claims it to be 112 hectares while the Conservation and Development Division of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources asserts it is 83.968 hectares and the existing project map approximates the area to be 82.4617 hectares.
In a public consultation held on Aug. 22, the City Environment and Natural Resources Office-Baguio said the Baguio side of Busol had already been delineated and surveyed and that the data and the management plan had already been transmitted to the City Environment Park and Management Office.
In April 2021, some structures within the area were dismantled by the City Demolition Team.
Subsequently, the ABEBBPAP Federation lobbied to the city council and Rep. Marquez Go for the segregation of the heavily populated portion of Busol.
The federation asserted for decades, this portion had been resided by the descendants of four claimants namely Gumangan, Molintas, Kalomis, and Rafael, whose land claims are believed to have preceded the enactment of Proclamation 15.
The federation further claimed Proclamation 15 mentions and recognizes the land claims of inhabitants within the reservation.
In 2014, the Supreme Court said Proclamation 15 does not appear to be a definitive recognition of ancestral land claims.
The SC added the proclamation “merely identifies the Molintas and Gumangan families as claimants of a portion of the Busol Forest Reservation but does not acknowledge vested rights over the same.”
The federation begged city officials to consider their plight, stressing the only way to protect the residents with land claims is for the inhabited portion to be segregated from the forest reservation. – Jordan G. Habbiling