September 25, 2023

Even when granted full control over Burnham Park, there are limitations to what the city government of Baguio can do over the park.

One of these is segregating portions of the park.

The Presidential proclamations that granted the city government full control and administration of Burnham Park prohibit segregating a portion of the park unless permitted by the Secretary of the Department of Tourism.

This was revealed amidst the Tourism Infrastructure and Development Authority’s protest about the city government’s titling of portions of the park.

Titling of city land needs started during the term of former mayor Mauricio Domogan but the former mayor clarified that in the case of Burnham Park, only a relocation survey was pursued to determine its exact metes and bounds, not to have it titled.

Domogan told reporters he did not see the need to have the park titled as it is already delineated as a park by virtue of a Presidential proclamation.

He recalled there was a previous attempt by a group of Ibaloys to have the Ibaloy Heritage Garden titled but he disapproved this, saying the national government, through the Department of Tourism, is still the owner of Burnham Park.

He said Executive Order 224 signed by then President Fidel Ramos which devolved management of the park from the National Parks Development Corporation to the City of Baguio and EO 695 signed by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, which gave the city full control and administration of the park, has specifically set the limitations of the city government.

“The proclamations were for the transfer of administration only. Kasla nga LGU (local government unit) ti management arm ti Philippine Tourism Authority (now Tieza),” Domogan said. 

He added the titling of portions of the Burnham might set a dangerous precedent as this will allow for other entities to also apply for titling over areas covered by presidential proclamations.

The issuance of title also gives leeway for the city government to exercise its right as owner.

“As owner, the city can do whatever it wants such as to sell or mortgage,” the former mayor said.

On April 24, the city council has allotted an additional P2 million for the titling of Lot 6, which covers portions of the swimming pool and Pine Trees of the World.

City Administrator Bonifacio dela Peña earlier said the city government will apply for all areas in Burnham Park that are not covered by OCT 1. Portions of Burnham Park covered by OCT 1 include the Athletic Bowl and the lots where the old city library and old auditorium were located. 

City officials justified the titling saying this will allow the city government to “clear the irregularities” happening including illegal occupation, adding that the city government does not intend to remove the jurisdiction of the Tieza over the area.

Recently titled portions referred to as Burnham Lot 1 are the picnic grove, skating rink, the parking area fronting Tiong San Harrison, City Environment and Parks Management extension office, City Library, Burnham Lake, Children’s Playground, Orchidarium, bicycle area, Rose Garden, Melvin Jones grandstand, food stalls, Igorot Garden, and Ibaloy Heritage Garden. – Rimaliza A. Opiña with reports from Jordan G. Habbiling