BAGUIO CITY – Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan expressed the local government’s all-out support to the plan of Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu to exempt Baguio City from the coverage of the 18 degrees slope limitation imposed by Presidential Decree (PD) 705 or the Forestry Reform Code of the Philippines.
The local chief executive argued that the environment department already granted the exemption from the 18 degrees slope limitation to Benguet and that Baguio city which is within the territorial jurisdiction of Benguet should be actually granted the same treatment.
Further, he added that the environment department accepted applications from individuals and corporations for the titling of lands that are actually above the 18 degrees limitation prescribed under PD 705, thus, the exemption has supposed to have been long overdue.
“We hope that the environment will be able to come out with a final decision on the matter so that all issues and concerns related to the failure of the same office to recognize the prevailing situation in the city will be put to rest the soonest,” Domogan stressed.
PD 705 stated that lands above 18 degrees in elevation form part of the forest lands of the State, thus, it cannot be declared as alienable and disposable by the concerned government agencies.
Domogan asserted that the exemption of the Cordillera, including Benguet and Baguio city, from such provision has long been clamoured for because almost all of the lands in the region are above 18 degrees in elevation which do not actually qualify for declaration as alienable and disposable and to be granted titles by the State.
According to him, it is also one of the arguments of autonomy advocates on why the Cordillera should enhance the clamor for autonomy so that it will not be subjected to the coverage of policies that are not actually applicable in the region, thus, the autonomous regional government will be empowered to craft policies that are suitable to the prevailing situation in the region whereby the same will be responsive to the actual situation and the existing needs of the people in the region.
He claimed that are numerous individuals that already built their structures in areas that are over the 18 degrees slope limitation wherein they were not able to process their applications for the titling of their properties considering the presence of such policy that remains a hindrance to the issuance of titles for the lands that people have occupied since time in memorial.
Autonomy advocates reiterated that the only way on how Cordillerans could move out from the shackles of poverty is for the realization of the constitutional provision an dating the creation of Autonomous Regions in Muslim Mindanao and the Cordillera so that the regional governments will be able to establish their permanent regional identities, craft responsive policies for the region and ensure progress for all through enhanced economic polices suitable in the region.
He claimed the clamor for regional autonomy still remains as one of the major thrusts of the Regional Development Council (RDC) in the Cordillera in the 18th Congress for possible enactment of the law as committed by lawmakers not only from the Cordillera but also from Mindanao./Dexter A. See