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city to oppose all bogus ancestral land claims

BAGUIO CITY – City officials on Monday agreed to oppose all bogus ancestral land claims (ALCs) that seek to undermine protected areas like parks, watersheds and forest reservations in the city.
“Our stand is clear that we oppose all ancestral land applications that do not qualify under section 78 of the of Republic Act No. 8371 or the Indigenous People’s Rights Act, whether these applications cover big or small parcels of land,” the mayor told department heads and city councilors.
The mayor said a formal opposition will be issued after the city council approves a resolution expressing said stand.
The said document aims to thwart pending ALC applications now pending before the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) which include the vital Busol watershed, Wright Park, Botanical Garden and Casa Vallejo along Session Road.
Aside from these, the city is also in the thick of a fight to reclaim Forbes Park and Wright Park and other protected areas which were never reclassified as alienable as ancestral claims but were issued Certificates of Ancestral Land Titles (CALTs) by the NCIP in favor of the applicants.
Councilor Erdolfo Balajadia, council committee on environment and Baguio Regreening Movement chair aired concern over the rising number of CALT applications over portions of watersheds in the city. He said the city has to intervene and stop the NCIP from entertaining these applications.
The mayor also directed city legal officer Melchor Carlos Rabanes to reiterate the city’s position opposing any and all applications over watersheds and forest reservations before the NCIP main office.
Rabanes said they have been in constant touch with the Office of Solicitor General (OSG) on the progress of the Forbes Park case for the cancellation of the CALTs. He said the city also has filed a petition before the NCIP for the cancellation of the Wright Park CALTs since these still fall within the prescribed time for reversal unlike the Forbes Park case.
The mayor also cautioned against the issuance of tax declarations over lands covered by questionable ancestral land claims.
“If the areas are not questionable, by all means let us issue the tax declaration, but for questionable areas, let us not,” he said.
For ancestral claims that cover lands identified for public needs, Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda said there was a suggestion that the city issue tax declaration over areas that are cleared and just set aside the portions identified for public needs but the mayor rejected the idea saying it would practically condone the irregularity.
The mayor said legitimate claims are those Igorot claims classified as alienable as ancestral land as per section 78 of the IPRA law which provides that the city of Baguio “shall remain to be governed by its Charter and all lands proclaimed as part of its townsite reservation shall remain as such until otherwise reclassified by appropriate legislation..”
Section 78 also provides an exemption that “prior land rights and titles recognized and/or acquired through any judicial, administrative or other processes before the effectivity of this Act shall remain valid…” which means that Igorot claims recognized before November 1997, the date of IPRA implementation, are qualified as ancestral claims.
Among those recognized are Igorot ancestral claims screened under Special Administrative Order No. 31 and Dept. Administrative Order No. 02 issued by the Dept. and Environment and Natural Resources.
The mayor said all applications that are not covered by these issuances will just have to be opposed. – A Refuerzo

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