City moves to protect busol watershed

BAGUIO CITY – The city government began its planned series of actions to protect the critical Busol watershed, the city’s biggest source of potable water, against further intrusions.

Mayor Benjamin Magalong in a press briefing Aug. 2 bared that the city through the City Buildings and Architecture Office (CBAO) issued cease and desist notices to about five owners of ongoing constructions within the forest reservation.

The mayor said this would be followed through with succeeding notices for them to voluntarily dismantle their structures but if they will defy the orders, then the city will be forced to undertake the demolition in the coming days.

Magalong said all ongoing structures will have to go as the city’s first wave of action to save the watershed.

Those entangled in court cases will be dealt with eventually through joint actions with the Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources Cordillera (DENR-CAR).

The city will also collaborate with the DENR-CAR to pursue the reversion procedures to reclaim the 7.8 hectare lot within the Busol watershed that was allegedly illegally titled by unscrupulous individuals.

The filing of the case for reversion rests with the Office of the Solicitor General and up to now since the matter was discovered in 2015, the procedure has not been started despite several follow-ups done by the city and the DENR-CAR.

The City Legal Office said they plan to ask the mayor to invite the OSG to the city for a dialogue to further explain the situation.

Asst. City legal officer Melchor Carlos Rabanes said the city government as early as July 28, 2014 forwarded the matter to the OSG for the filing of reversion case to cancel the Original Certificate of Title No. 018-0-162 covers an area of 77,849 square meters which was subdivided into 22 lots with duly issued Transfer Certificates of Title (TCTs).

Also on Sept. 6, 2013, the city also filed an affidavit of adverse claim for annotation to the contested title and the 22 derivative ones

In 2013, then city assessor Nilda Navarro discovered the spurious titles upon review of applications for tax declaration covering the subdivided lots and noticed the lack of revalidation before its subdivision.

The subject lot is covered by a 211 title or part of those titles issued under Civil Reservation Case No. 1 Record 211 and which were declared void by the Supreme Court because the court that issued the same had no jurisdiction. The said titles can be legalized only upon undergoing validation proceedings.

The Baguio Regreening Movement (BRM) chaired by former city prosecutor Erdolfo Balajadia also planned a joint action with the city government, DENR-CAR and the Baguio Water District to pursue the reversion process to cancel the irregular titles along with the court case against those responsible for the illegal titling and the filing of a petition for the issuance of a temporary environmental protection order (TEPO) or a Writ of Kalikasan to protect Busol.

Another issue on Busol which the mayor is expected to address soon is the structures up for demolition covered by Demolition Order No. 33 series of 2005 of former mayor Braulio Yaranon.

The Supreme Court in a decision dated February 4, 2009 sustained the city government’s bid to demolish said structures by alleged ancestral land claimants.

The High Tribunal sustained the city government’s contention that the city is governed by its charter and “thus, (lot occupants) cannot claim their alleged ancestral lands under the provisions of the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA).”/Aileen P. Refuerzo