FOR lack of confirmation of an agreement finally resolving boundary disputes between the municipalities of Bokod and Itogon, the town officials of the latter opposed a couple of resolutions respectively approved and forwarded by the Benguet provincial board and the municipal council of Bokod to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the Land Management Bureau, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (LMB-DENR).
The neighboring towns of Itogon and Bokod are tied in boundary dispute cases involving 12,495.82 hectares and 3,040.82 hectares found in separate geographical locations.
But based on previous consultations and meetings attended by Bokod and Itogon officials, the Benguet SP which resolves boundary disputes between municipalities, said that both parties agreed to a reduction of the contested areas of dispute, saying that the bigger dispute area now belongs to Bokod and that the smaller dispute area becomes the only area of dispute between the two.
The settlement was contained in an Order of Partial Resolution issued by the Benguet SP on March 8, 2019.
Hence, based on the partial order, the Bokod SB on June 16, 2020 under Resolution 088 Series of 2020 requested the DBM to recompute its Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) that was due the municipality for fiscal year 2021. The same was endorsed by the Benguet SP to the DBM under Resolution No. 2020-600 dated July 13, 2020.
A year later on June 16, 2021; the municipal council of Itogon expressed opposition to both resolutions by forwarding their own Resolution No. 201, Series of 2021 to the DBM, the LMB-DENR, Benguet SP and the municipality of Bokod.
The Itogon council, presided over by Vice Mayor Adriano R. Carantes Jr. said, they strongly believe that the Benguet SP partial resolution is still part of an ongoing negotiation being conducted by the provincial board pending a final contract or agreement to be confirmed and signed by the concerned municipal councils.
When asked why it took the Itogon legislative body almost a year to oppose the resolutions of Bokod and the Benguet SP, councilors Dax Godio and Romeo Pocding said, Itogon as one of the towns involved in the boundary dispute issue was never furnished copies of the resolutions, and only learned lately in May 2021 about the request for recomputation of IRA by Bokod as endorsed by the Benguet SP.
The other resolutions were Benguet SP Resolution No. 2021-946 that was forwarded to the LMB-DENR on February 8, 2021 requesting the agency to endorse to the DBM that the disputed area of 12,495.82 hectares between Itogon and Bokod now belongs to the latter. This was in response to Bokod SB Resolution No. 151 Series of 2020 dated October 5, 2020 asking the Benguet SP for proper action.
However, Itogon officials are not alone in expressing opposition to the resolution of Bokod and the Benguet SP.
On August 10, 2020; Director Irene B. Gahid of the DBM – Cordillera already wrote the Benguet SP members informing them that the DBM computes the IRA shares of LGUs based on an allocation formula prescribed by Sec. 285 of the Local Government Code as reiterated by Sec. 86 of the General Provisions of FY 2020 General Appropriations Act.
In her letter, Gahid wrote, the formula considers among others the “land area based on the FY 2001 Master List of Land Area certified by the Land Management Bureau” of the DENR.
She wrote further that her office was constrained from effecting any adjustment on the IRA share of a municipality until such time that the said change in land area is integrated in LMB’s updated Master List of Land Area of all LGUs as validated by the parties identified in Sec. 86 (a) of the general provisions of the FY 2020 GAA.
In her letter to the Benguet SP, Gahid said Bokod officials submitted their resolution directly to her office of which she previously had informed them of her comments.
The letter further said, the DBM should be directed by law to use said updated data on land area as basis in computing the IRA allocation of LGUs, and that without compliance to the requirements in FY 2020 or any authorized modification in the other factors affecting the IRA allocation of FY 2020, the computed FY 2021 IRA for Bokod stands.
The Benguet SP said it also appears that the settlement of dispute covering the 12,495.82 hectares was not endorsed to the DBM; hence, the legislative body in the capitol forwarded Resolution No. 2021-946 to the LMB-DENR.
As of press time last Thursday, it was learned that the municipal councils of Bokod and Itogon were in a hearing and consultation at the Benguet SP hall to thresh out kinks for the remaining dispute area of 3,040.82 hectares.
A settlement resolution and final order by the Benguet SP is expected to be approved next month.