Busol Squatters Asked to Cooperate
May 16, 2015
BAGUIO CITY – Mayor Mauricio Domogan appealed to the illegal occupants of the Busol watershed to cooperate and voluntarily give up the premises to allow the City to undertake its programs for the preservation and protection of the city’s biggest watershed that supplies a third of the city’s water needs.
“We are calling on those obstructing the watershed to stop blocking our efforts because if we do not protect our watershed, what will happen to our city?” the mayor said.
The mayor said that as much as possible, the City does not want to resort to filing criminal cases against the lot claimants.
“I hope they will just cooperate so that we will not go to the point of filing criminal cases against them.”
The city is working out the demolition of the illegal structures within the watershed including the shanties built within the area designated for the Busol Tree Nursery and field office.
Last May 7, anti-squatting operatives were set to undertake the dismantling operation of the five structures but were fended off by occupants who barricaded the area.
The mayor said the City will pursue the demolition anytime in collaboration with the concerned law enforcement agencies.
The mayor said they will also issue demolition notices to the owners of the small and large structures in the other parts of the watershed.
He also directed the investigation of alleged new structures and the filing of new cases against those who will continue to defy the law.
The Supreme Court in a decision issued last year sustained the City Government’s bid to demolish illegal structures numbering 33 located in three sections of the watershed during the time of former mayor Reinaldo Bautista Jr. in July, 2009 which did not materialize after the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) issued a temporary restraining orders and later a preliminary injunction.
The High Court upheld its decision in February 4, 2009 quashing the jurisdiction of the NCIP to issue similar orders in 2006 to stop the implementation of the three demolition orders issued by then Mayor Braulio Yaranon for the dismantling of the illegal structures owned by three lot claimants.
In the said case, the structure occupants filed a petition for injunction and restraining orders before the NCIP Cordillera claiming that the lots within the watershed are their ancestral lands and that their ownership of said lots “have been expressly recognized in Proclamation No. 15 dated April 27, 1922” which declared the areas as a forest reservation.
In the order, the higher court maintained that the lot occupants’ ancestral land claim was not expressly recognized by Proclamation No. 15 which should have justified the issuances made by the NCIP.
The court said Proclamation No. 15 “does not appear to be a definitive recognition of private respondents’ ancestral land claim.”
“The proclamation merely identifies the Molintas and Gumangan families, the predecessors-in-interest of private respondents, as claimants of a portion of the Busol Forest Reservation but does not acknowledge vested rights over the same. In fact, Proclamation No. 15 explicitly withdraws the Busol Forest Reservation from sale or settlement,” the decision reads.
“The fact remains, too, that the Busol Forest Reservation was declared by the Court as inalienable in Heirs of Gumanagan v. Court of Appeals. The declaration of the (reservation) as such precludes its conversion into private property. Relatedly, the courts are not endowed with the jurisdictional competence to adjudicate forest lands,” the court added/A Refuerzo