By WENDY ATUBAN WITH REPORTS FROM ARTHUR LAPAAN ALLAD-IW
Review of land system urged
BAGUIO CITY — Congressman Mauricio Domogan said that his proposed bill to amend the 100 years City Charter removes the tedious process of bidding under the Town Site Sales Application (TSA) which would facilitate faster awarding of land to qualified beneficiaries.
A human rights lawyer urged however the review of the land system in the city to know if we have enough lands which could be utilized to address the right to shelter for the needy residents.
Domogan took the forum at the Multi-Purpose of the City Hall to deny earlier allegations that his proposed amendments of the City Charter is anti-poor, inconsiderate of ancestral lands claims, and did not undergo public consultation.
In a forum held in line with the 2009 Local celebration of the the national shelter month, the congressman said that misinterpretation and politics are behind said allegations.
First, he claimed he supports legitimate ancestral land claims in the city. He explained, contrary to popular belief, that Baguio is covered by the provisions of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act. Citing section 78 of said law, he said only those claims before the effectivity of the IPRA which is on November 1997 are recognized as legitimate.
Domogan said that Busol watershed is inalienable. He admitted that the ancestral land claimants at Busol are recognized as heirs however “they do not have vested rights on the same.” Whether the claimants have vested rights would still be decided by the court, a claimant of Busol said, insisting that ancestral land claim is a vested right.
Domogan affirmed the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) has authority to issue temporary restraining orders and injunctions when related to ancestral land issues.
Domogan said the city charter needs to be codified in order for it to be available to the people and for it to fit the present situation of the city and its future. Till then, he said, the city could implement its land use development plan. The amendments, he said, “will help speed up land processes” and “will help give city authority and control of lands.”
Who says it’s anti-poor?
“It is not anti-poor. Who says it is anti-poor?” That is what Domogan asked the people gathered in the forum answering earlier allegations by some concerned groups that his local cha-cha does not help the poor and the homeless in the city.
He maintained that it is not anti-poor because there is no longer public bidding on alienable lands except for special cases. According to him, bidding occurs only when there are two or more claimants on an area and when the claimants have similar circumstances. In which case, the most deserving will get the award.
While there is no bidding however, the alienable land under the proposed charter will be sold to qualified beneficiaries, said an urban poor leader adding: “The capacity to pay alienable land by a beneficiary remains an issue.”
He admitted that settling land ownership in the city could help address the issue of the right of shelter which some of the audience raised as an issue lacking in the proposed charter.
Regarding public concern on the lack of public consultation about the proposed amendments in the city charter which is now pending in the senate, Domogan said it has undergone many consultations and in fact it has sustained some recommendations gathered from those who have been consulted.
Urban poor leaders who attended the forum claimed that there was no public consulations that happened in the past. If there was, it was only with few selected leaders. In fact, before this so called forum, they should have given us copy to study the contents of the proposed bill, he added.
Right to shelter
Meanwhile, while the proposed Domogan bill for Baguio charter change removed the process of bidding as contained under the town site sales application (TSA) of the 1909 Charter, the availability of disposable land in the city remains a real issue.
Lawyer Jose Mencio Molintas explained that the TSA system was adopted by the American colonial rule in the country because they wanted to encourage people to come in the city.
“That was 100 years ago,” he said, adding that there are now more than 300,000 population of the city. Is there still land to be sold? he asked.
He said that the policy to sale alienable land in the city should be reviewed instead and determine those areas which could be habitable.
“To change the charter after 100 years is an opportunity, but the land system should be reviewed instead,” explained Molintas. He said that these lands can be utilized to address the right to shelter by the residents instead.
There are more than eight million square meters pending TSA and Miscellaneous Sales Applications (MSA) at the Bureau of Land here, Nordis learned. # nordis.net