By ADELA DEYAEN WAYAS
BAGUIO CITY — The local government is pushing for the revision of the century-old city charter however the urban poor sector doubts it would answer their impoverished situation.
Last week, Baguio City Mayor Mauricio Domogan presented to the Senate committee on local government the proposal amending the old charter of the city. The Senate committee headed by Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr will deliberate on the said proposal when the Senate convenes on May.
But the Senate committee advised to conduct a public consultation on the matter before another deliberation.
Mayor Domogan informed the media that the city is given one month to review flaws of the city charter with regards to the new Republic Act 10023 or the Free Patent Law. Domogan said during this period they will sit down with different agencies concerned to fix the problem.
It could also be recalled that Domogan also proposed to amend the charter when he was then the city’s Congressman and now refiled by Congressman Bernardo Vergara.
According to Gerry Cacho of Organisasyon ti Nakurapay iti Umili ti Syudad (ORNUS), it is true that the city charter of Baguio is now old and need amendments however it should consider the people and not only the benefits that the government could gain. She said that revision to the old city charter must resolve the issues of the indigenous peoples (IPs) and urban poor settlers in the city.
Cacho explained that the city charter which was made in 1909 explicitly grabbed the lands of the Ibalois who were then the original settlers of Baguio. She said many of the Ibalois in the city were forced to leave their lands when Baguio then was proclaimed as Townsite Reservation.
Cacho said the city charter that the government is pushing only focuses on acquiring public lands but does not recognize the ancestral land rights of the IPs. She added many of the Ibaloi lands were converted to alienable and disposable public lands owned by private individuals.
Moreover, she said that many of the existing land laws only complicate the problem of IPs to their ancestral lands. She cited that the Republic Act 7279 or the Urban Development and Housing Act provides low cost housing, mandates to provide relocation sites to evicted families but is not being implemented by the local government.
In the middle of 1980s the Department Administrative Order 2 of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources recognized the ancestral land rights of the claimants said Cacho and with the emergence of the Certificate of Ancestral Land Titles and Certificate of Ancestral Domain Titles.
She said that this gave rise to fake title holders to apply and acquire lands. The original Ibaloi claimants according to her were denied ownership of their lands because it was already declared as reservations.
Cacho also said the city charter does not also address the situation of the urban poor settlers of Baguio. She said that in the city charter of Baguio, a committee determined through the city mayor will decide the process and approval of land applications.
Before drafting a new city charter, Cacho urged that all land titles should be investigated and reviewed vis a vis the real situation of the lands and the actual occupants in the city. She added the issue on reservation and privatized lands must be resolved first before pushing for a city charter that recognizes the rights of the IPs to their ancestral lands.
A genuine consultation as well must be done first among the people of Baguio otherwise Cacho said people have to assert and fight for their right for land. Baguio is a land of IPs and falls under the ancestral domain of the Cordillera Cacho explained it has a mixture of different people, thus, this should be the particularity the lawmakers should consider in drafting the laws. # nordis.net