June 14, 2024

The Community  Environment and Natural Resources Office-Baguio (Cenro) has asked the city government to review its land classification, which has been identified as one of the factors that hinder the titling of lands in Baguio under the Residential Free Patent Law.

The provision of the city’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) that identified certain areas in the city as forest zones affects the processing of residential free patent titles, even if the applicants are qualified.

Evelyn Wales, who appeared before the council on behalf of Cenro head Leandro de Jesus, said they do not process applications for residential free patent if the City Planning, Sustainability, and Development Office (CPSDO) issues certification that the land falls within the area classified as a forest zone.

The Cenro recommended the city government to review the CLUP classification since there are areas that may be covered with trees but are alienable and disposable and are occupied by residents who are qualified to have their lands titled under the Free Patent Law.

“We recommend a review of the CLUP, particularly the areas zoned as forest lands to address the concern. We also request that we be included in the review of the CLUP,” Wales said.

Under the CLUP, forest zones are areas that have tree covers and are not necessarily sites proclaimed by government agencies.

More than 800 applications for residential free patents were denied for various reasons, including the prohibition under the CLUP.

Aside from the land classification in the CLUP, Executive Order 112, s. 2022 which provides the width of alleys and barangay and city roads to be complied with in individual lot surveys makes it challenging for the applicants to have their residential lands titled.

Wales said if the survey plan submitted does not comply with EO 112, the application for a residential free patent is denied. EO 112, signed by Mayor Benjamin Magalong, provides that for individual lot plans, the width of the alley should not be less than three meters, not less than six meters for barangay roads, and not less than eight meters for barangay roads.

Benguet Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer Edgardo Flor said a lot of applications cannot qualify under EO 112 and recommended that the city government revisit the policy.

He said the implementation of EO 112 should be on a “case-to-case basis because there are a lot of pathways where it is impossible to meet the three-meter width”.

The Residential Free Patent Act does not require the width of roads, alleys, and pathways, but Flor said they also have to comply with local policies.

Since the passage of the Free Patent Law in 2010, Flor said 2,012 applications were approved, covering 28.4 hectares, and are already registered with the Register of Deeds.

Another factor that affects the processing of free patent applications is the 60-meter road right-of-way requirement of the Department of Public Works and Highways.

The Cenro recommended that the city council pass a measure to ask the DPWH to adopt EO 621 of the policy that allows highly urbanized cities like Baguio to adjust the width of the right-of-way from 60 meters to 20 meters.

Other reasons for the denial of free patent applications are overlapping claims.

The city council has tasked the committee on lands to study the recommendations of the Cenro to facilitate the issuance of free patents in the city. – Jane B. Cadalig