The Proposed Baguio
Charter: Transforming Baguio's Land Problem from Bad to Worse
Position Paper on the land provisions
of House Bill No. 2813
(An Act Revising the Charter of the City of Baguio)
Signed by the Delegates
of the BAGUIO LAND CON FERENCE (The Baguio Land Situation: Problems,
Positions and Alternatives) on August 28-29, 2008 at the UP Baguio
College of Social Sciences AVR. The Conference was jointly sponsored
by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, UP College of Social Sciences,
Tongtongan Ti Umili, Tebtebba, Interfaith Gathering for Truth and
Accountability and the Committee on Laws and Committee on Land of
the Baguio City Council
Throughout Baguio's history, numerous laws and policies
have been passed, decisions have been made and developments have
happened, resulting in a complex and problematic land situation
in the City. Starting with the proclamation of the Baguio Townsite
Reservation in 1907 by the American colonial government, the creation
of Baguio as a Chartered City in 1909, and the decision on the Carino
doctrine in 1909, there have been a series of laws, proclamations
and decisions on land claims and land disposition in the city that
make the urban land problem truly a challenge to fathom.
Various interests and perspectives come into play
in the Baguio land situation.
On one hand, you have the original Ibaloi indigenous
inhabitants whose native title to their ancestral lands was "recognized"
in a decision of the US Supreme court in 1909 on the case of Carino
vs. the Insular government (a landmark decision now known as the
Carino doctrine). However, these same Ibaloi families fell victim
through the years to a systematic and legalized dispossession of
their ancestral lands with the passage of numerous laws, proclamations
and decisions by the colonial and commonwealth government in the
Philippines. Now we see a large part of Baguio, including Ibaloi
ancestral lands, declared as government reservations and public
land under the control of the national government.
On the other hand, conflicting land laws and overlapping
land claims also exist in the city. Aside from land titles of various
kinds, the Townsite Sales Application (TSA) is the primary instrument
of land disposition in the city within the Baguio Townsite Reservation.
However, the issuance of TSAs by the DENR has been so expensive,
controversial and anomalous such that there is hardly a land claim
that does not conflict with another. There is also the issue of
expanded titles, conflicting land use, subdivisions, road right
of way, watershed and forest reserves, miscellaneous sales application,
overlapping surveys with different reference points, Community Mortgage
Program, actual occupants vs. claimants, etc. etc. The limited area
of alienable and disposable land in the city is now being fiercely
contested by these numerous and various conflicting interests.
Another aspect of the urban land problem is the
influx of migrants from other regions and provinces into the city.
As early as the 1900s with the opening up of the mines in Benguet
and the declaration of the city as a summer capital, there has been
a steady stream of migrants coming into the city. In-migration and
rapid urbanization has stretched the carrying capacity of Baguio
to the limits and has resulted in land scarcity, squatting and homelessness.
After 100 years of Baguio's existence, the land
problem is nowhere near being resolved and is in fact worsening,
with land conflicts among the people increasing. Now here comes
the proposed Baguio Charter revision filed by Congressman Mauricio
Domogan in Congress. The Bill was re-filed in the 14th Congress
and has undergone first and second reading at the House committee
level, without consultation and the knowledge of the general populace
of the city. The Bill contains dubious provisions on land, which
if approved could worsen the already bad land situation in Baguio.
The Bill is scheduled for discussion in the House Plenary Session
From Bad to Worse
The proposed Baguio Charter through House Bill 2813 introduced by
Hon. Mauricio Domogan in Congress contains questionable provisions,
which are bound to turn the Baguio land situation from bad to worse.
The most salient features of the proposed Charter
revisions can be found in Article II: Alienable and Disposable Public
Lands of the Baguio Townsite Reservation. The gist of this article
is the titling of all alienable and disposable public lands in the
name of the City with the objective of boosting the city's revenue
The proposed Charter provides for the "Conduct
of Massive Subdivision Survey, the issuance of Original Certificate
of Title for all alienable and disposable public land in the name
of the city, Awarding of lands based on the formula of DENR, Composition
of Awards Committee, Moneys acquired through the sale of land, and
the NCIP provisions on Ancestral lands in Baguio".
A subdivision survey is not enough to solve the
gargantuan land problems besetting the city. The solution to the
land problem should be based on a comprehensive study that would
include land classification and usage, an updated land map and the
resolution of conflicting land claims. Without this, there is a
danger of manipulation that could lead to the encroachment of lands
that are not included in the alienable and disposable public lands.
This study should be treated as a pre-requisite to the charter revision,
in order to make the Charter responsive to the actualities happening
in the city.
Also, while the Charter revision states that those
ancestral lands recognized under RA 8731 or the Indigenous Peoples'
Rights Act (IPRA) are not covered by the titling, ancestral land
claimants are currently under-going the tedious processes of land
registration due to conflicting land laws as stated above, including
the IPRA law. Even the landmark Carino Doctrine recognizing the
indigenous peoples' claim to their ancestral lands has not been
Once passed, the Domogan bill would include these
unsettled claims to ancestral lands among the public lands to be
titled to whoever City Hall pleases. The Ibaloi ancestral land claimants
would be subjected to further dispossession in clear violation of
the indigenous peoples' inherent right to their ancestral land.
House Bill 2813 would also perpetuate the tedious
and expensive Townsite Sales Application (TSA) as the primary mode
of land acquisition in Baguio. Applicants would still be burdened
with the public bidding requirement under the TSA which directly
limits the opportunities for land acquisition to those who have
the capacity to bid.
In addition, complications in the processes of land
acquisition has inherently entrenched graft and corruption in such
processes. According to its author, the Charter revision is aimed
at curbing this problem. But giving the same powers to the city
mayor without overhauling the process would only mean a transfer
of corruption from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources
(DENR) to the city government.
While it is not proper to pre-judge the integrity
of whoever will sit in the said office, common sense would tell
us that giving this power to a person with political interest would
also politicize the process. There is a big possibility that the
awarding of lands, through the revised Charter would be tainted
with corruption and political favors.
Lack of Public Consultation
Any bill affecting the residents of Baguio should be subjected to
a thorough consultation process among all affected sectors. However,
the author of this bill failed to conduct massive public consultation
before filing HB 2813. The Bill has already undergone first and
second readings in the House of Representatives, yet an ordinary
Baguio resident does not even know the contents of the proposed
Baguio Charter. Hon. Domogan must be sensitive to the right of the
Baguio public to be informed so as to make the right decisions regarding
this bill. In fact, the series of consultations should have been
conducted even before the Congress hearings if the author of this
bill values transparency and social acceptability.
Given all the reservations and apprehensions cited
above, we unequivocally register our opposition to the salient features/provisions
in Article II (Alienable and Disposable Public Lands of the Baguio
Townsite Reservation) of House Bill No. 2813 (An Act Revising the
Charter of the City of Baguio).
We Call For:
1. Comprehensive land survey and in-depth study to arrive at a viable
and long-term solution to Baguio's land problem
2. Thorough education and information dissemination
campaign and public consultation among all affected sectors on the
proposed Baguio charter in the interest of truth and transparency
before any decision is made in Congress.
What We Need is a Charter That:
1. will rationalize the land use in Baguio to address existing issues,
needs and democratic interests of the people of Baguio;
2. recognizes the indigenous people's legitimate
rights to their ancestral lands;
3. respect the rights of those who acquired their
lands through legitimate means;
4. is responsive to the realities of land scarcity
and limited carrying capacity of Baguio as an urban center;
5. addresses the need for decent housing for the
less privileged, the landless and homeless bona fide residents of
6. introduces workable alternatives to the complicated
land situation in Baguio based on a comprehensive study and thorough
public consultation #