BAGUIO CITY – The segregation for housing purposes of the built-up areas at the Buyog watershed from the coverage of Proclamation No. 93 which declares Buyog as a forest reservation will be pursued but the city government will ensure the protection of the remaining unoccupied portion of the reservation.
Mayor Mauricio Domogan stressed this as he directed last Feb. 1 city legal officer Melchor Carlos Rabanes to draft a memorandum of agreement stipulating conditions to ensure the preservation of the remaining unoccupied portion of the watershed should the planned segregation materialize.
The mayor’s move was based on the recommendation of Baguio Water District (BWD) general manager Salvador Royeca for the forging of a MOA that spells out conditions for the protection of the remaining portions of the watershed before the BWD will issue a favorable endorsement to the segregation.
“The (BWD) is prepared to a favorable endorsement however, we have proposed some conditions thereto which we believe are for the best interest of the City of Baguio, (BWD) and the residents thereat,” Royeca wrote the mayor.
The BWD’s endorsement of the proposed segregation was sought by Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) NorthLuzon regional coordinator Micheline Inay
In a letter to Inay dated January 25, Royeca cited four conditions: that no further intrusion of buildings should be allowed; that the existing breaches of openings in the existing fence should be closed to prevent entry of unauthorized persons; that residents should be required to install sealed septic tanks; and that the residents should be informed that they have a personal stake in preservation the watershed as it is their primary water source.
“These conditions are sought to be imposed as our inspection has revealed that without these conditions being put in place, we will risk the irreversible contamination of the water sources,” Royeca noted.
He suggested that a MOA “be executed to serve as the basis for our issuance of the requested endorsement.”
City council committee on lands chair Councilor Leandro Yangot Jr. asked the mayor to task the city legal office for the immediate drafting of the MOA to facilitate the issuance of the BWD endorsement.
A large portion of the 20-hectare Buyog is inhabited by residents from Pinget, Quirino Hill and other barangays straddled by the forest reserve.
Pinget barangay officials sought the segregation of 113,193 square meter area occupied by residents for housing as early as 2009. The residents claimed they have occupied the area since the late 70s or long before the issuance of Proclamation No. 93 issued in 1992.
In 2014, Lower Quirino Hill residents sought the intercession of Yangot also for the exclusion of the inhabited portion from the reservation.
Efforts to abate squatting at the reservation peaked in the 1990s when illegal structures were demolished by authorities but the intruders kept on returning prompting the Baguio Regreening Movement under former Councilor Erdolfo Balajadia and the Baguio-Benguet Medical Society to spearhead the fencing of the unoccupied portion to ward off further intrusion and expansion of the shanties.
According to the BRM, of the 20-hectare reservation area, only about 10 hectares remained unoccupied.
Buyog is one of the four major sources of water in the city aside from Sto. Tomas, Busol and Camp 8.
It supplies water to the Buyog area including Camdas, Dizon, Pinget and Quirino Hill barangays. – A Refuerzo