The rehabilitation of the historic Baguio Convention Center may take longer time as the ongoing private treasure hunting backed by the National Museum is causing ground instability.
This was based on the report of Mines and Geosciences Bureau – Cordillera entitled “Geohazard Identification Report on the Abandoned Drilled Holes from the Treasure Hunting Conducted by the Team of Mr. Eliseo A. Cabusao Jr., at Baguio Convention Center.”
The MGB-CAR report recommended that “proponent should conduct forensic engineering and structural engineering assessment to define and improve the durability, stability and seismic resiliency of the structures.”
Engr. Tiburcio Canlas, Regional Director of the Department of Public Works and Highways Cordillera, who leads the rehabilitation project of the Baguio Convention Center called the attention of the city government and recommended for the restoration of the drilled holes.
Canlas likewise advised the city government to cause the withdrawal of the bond posted by Cabusao and expedite the engagement of a technical expert to undertake assessment as recommended by the MGB-CAR.
In response to the MGB and DPWH observations, the City Engineering Office of Baguio explained that department cannot cause the restoration of the drilled holes caused by the treasure hunting activity since it is not their department that issued the Excavation Permit.
“Mr. Cabusao has Treasure Hunting and Disposition of Revered Treasure Permit as he alleged but the same had been issued by the National Museum,” CEO Departmnet Head Engr. Edgar Victorio Olpindo explained.
Olpindo also said his office is not aware of any bond posted by the treasure hunter Cabusao.
The treasure hunting at the Baguio Convention Center started sometime in 2016 after director Jeremy Barns of the National Museum signed the permit of Cabusao to conduct of treasure hunting at the vicinity of the Baguio Convention Center and the ladies dormitory of the University of the Philippines—Baguio.
City officials raised objection to the treasure hunting as it is in conflict with the existing Environment Code that bans such activity in a public land. Treasure hunting excavations has been declared unlawful within the territorial limits of Baguio City based on city ordinances 522 in 1969 and 525 in 1970.
Cabusao, a resident of Bakakeng Central, Baguio City, earlier claimed that he learned the presence of truckloads of gold bars deposited in a tunnel somewhere in the vicinity of the location of the Baguio Convention Center from a 90-year old Japanese.
“We have posted a Performance Bond of P250,000 in case of our failure to provide the same, to answer for and guarantee payment to whatever actual damages that may be caused by our exploration-retrieval activities,” reads Cabusao’s letter to the city in 2016./Jessa Mardy P. Samidan