Baguio has been grappling with a range of complex issues, including the presence of informal settlers, unregulated structures, and a proliferation of condominiums. Recent claims made by the City Building and Architecture Office (CBAO) that 80 percent of structures in Baguio lack building permits, coupled with the issuance of demolition orders for structures within military reservations, have exacerbated these concerns. Additionally, the rise in condominium developments adds to the compounding problems of our city, from garbage management to water shortages and beyond.
Baguio has attracted tourists, investors, and those seeking new opportunities, but this transformation has underscored the need for effective urban planning and robust regulatory oversight.
The recent issuance of demolition orders within military reservations further complicates the situation. These areas may hold historical, political, and social significance, making the removal of informal settlers a sensitive matter. The mounting caseload in our local courts due to an influx of cases for injunctions and similar legal actions is now a pressing issue.
Adding to the challenges is the presence of professional squatters, who have managed to evade prosecution, despite the laws in place. Their actions exacerbate the informal settlement problem and add to the complexity of the situation.
On top of these issues, the proliferation of condominiums has raised new concerns. These developments strain the city’s infrastructure, exacerbating problems related to garbage management, water shortages, and other essential services. The rapid construction of these high-rise buildings, often without due consideration for environmental impact, has further compounded the challenges Baguio faces.
To address these multifaceted challenges effectively, our city must find a delicate balance between regulation and equity. With the CBAO’s limited manpower, it is reasonable to prioritize structures without building permits in areas where complaints have been raised, while also working to enforce regulations on new construction, including condominiums. This approach ensures that efforts are targeted, safety-focused, and responsive to the concerns of Baguio’s residents.
However, it is vital to acknowledge that informal settlers, including professional squatters, often represent the most vulnerable members of our community. Instead of relying solely on demolition, a more compassionate and sustainable approach should involve a collective effort from local authorities, government agencies, and NGOs to provide alternative housing options and livelihood opportunities. This approach would address the root causes of informal settlement while respecting the rights and dignity of those affected.
Moreover, it is crucial to consider the significant number of property owners who are mere investors or non-residents, using their properties mainly for vacation purposes. Tax policies and regulations should be structured to ensure that they contribute fairly to our city’s welfare.
As residents of Baguio, we believe that our city can overcome these challenges while preserving its unique character. By enforcing building regulations with compassion, providing sustainable solutions for our most vulnerable residents, and managing the proliferation of condominiums with environmental considerations, we can ensure that Baguio’s future is one we can all be proud of.