Watershed residents granted amnesty for water connection
Mayor Benjamin Magalong signed a city council resolution granting amnesty to long-time residents inside watersheds in the city for water supply connections.
The resolution was passed unanimously by the members of the Baguio City Council on Dec. 19, 2022 and signed by the mayor on Dec. 27, 2022.
The resolution stated the right of every citizen to have access to clean water should be respected and should be of higher importance than certain policies without necessarily condoning their acts of occupying the watershed areas.
“The government, as part of its commitment under international and national laws, must respect and promote basic human needs (such as) access to clean water for their survival, sanitation, and hygiene,” the resolution stated.
The resolution also authorized the Baguio Water District to approve pending applications as long as they are qualified based on all other necessary requirements.
The council resolution was a result of the forum in the city council on Nov. 21, 2022 where Pinget Punong Barangay Pablo Pawi wrote to the city council to ask for help with their appeal for water service connection. Attached in the letter was a list of 25 residents not serviced by the BWD.
In the forum, BWD Senior Corporate Counsel Chanell Dolor de Guzman said Proclamation 93, s. 1992 which established the Buyog Watershed withdrew the entire area from entry sale, disposition, or settlement.
“Inasmuch as we understand the predicament of the petitioners considering that, indeed, water is a basic human right, the BWD’s hands are tied by restrictions due to the fact that we have to protect the water sources therein,” de Guzman said.
Aside from Proclamation 93, Section 5f of Ordinance 67 s. 2009 also prohibits installation of electric and water supply to structures that are within government reservations, school areas, national and forest reservations, duly identified watershed areas, road right-of-ways and on dangerous areas as identified by the proper government agency.
De Guzman said the BWD had not granted any application for structures situated within forest and watershed reservations since the passage of the ordinance. She added no exemption had been given to any applicant residing within a reservation so as not to create any precedent.
Based on a Department of the Environment and Natural Resources-CAR survey, 12 hectares out of the 20-hectare Buyog Watershed has already been occupied by settlers and only 7.92 hectares is still forested. – Jordan G. Habbiling