BAGUIO CITY – The local government, the Cordillera office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR-CAR), the Baguio Water District (BWD) and the Baguio Regreening Movement (BRM) will respect the prior rights of residents within the 112-hectare portion of the Busol watershed which is within the jurisdiction of the city.
Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan admitted there were already titles that were issued to certain private individuals occupying portions of the watershed even before the issuance of the Proclamation that declared the 336-hectare Busol watershed as a forest reservation wherein 224 hectares is situated within the jurisdiction of the capital town of La Trinidad, Benguet while the 112 hectare is located within the jurisdiction of the city.
He added there are certain adjustments that have been done in the implementation of the fencing project to provide the appropriate right-of-way for certain individuals who were able to acquire prior rights over the lands that they currently occupy within the declared watershed.
Earlier, the DENR-CAR earmarked some P18 million to jumpstart the implementation of the Busol watershed fencing project while the local government also allocated at least P10 million to add to the required funding for the realization of the fencing which is geared towards the protection of the remaining portions of the watershed that have not been invaded by informal settlers.
The Fil-Am Golf Foundation also raised some P5 million through the previous conduct of the Fil-Am invitational golf tournaments in the city to help produce the P34 million required funding for the Busol watershed fencing project to guarantee the preservation and protection of the remaining major source of water for residents in the different barangays of the city.
Domogan explained only P15 million was used up for the fencing project from the funds that were earmarked by the DENR-CAR while the counterpart of the local government was fully used up and that the funds that were allotted by the Fil-Am Golf Foundation will be the one to be used to complete the fencing of the city’s source of water for the 40 percent of the city residents.
The concrete hallow block fence has a length of some 8 kilometers and with a height of 6 feet erected over the city portions of the watershed to spare the remaining bastion of pine trees from being cut and that the area will be squatted upon by enterprising informal settlers.
The local chief executive added the local government will also pursue the demolition of the illegal structures that were erected over portions of the watershed once the fencing project will be completed to rid the area of illegal structures so that it will serve as a sustainable source of potable water for residents.
He warned informal settlers in the forest reservation to voluntarily demolish their illegal structures anytime and not to wait for the members of the city demolition team to dismantle their structures so that they will be able to spare portions of their structures which they could use to build their houses in areas that they own to avoid being always in limbo whether or not their structures in the reservation will be removed through lawful orders.
The Busol watershed is the favourite tree planting site of the local government, concerned government agencies, schoolchildren and the private sector in a bid to maintain its status as a watershed for the benefit of the present and future generations. /By Dexter A. See