RESIDENTS of Barangay Loakan in Baguio began their heartbreaking negotiations with the city government to save their homes from demolition.
The civil society organization Organisasyon dagiti Nakurapay nga Umili ti Syudad (Ornus) has organized residents living around Baguio’s Loakan Airport in a campaign to save homes slated for demolition.
Some 300 households, according to official city figures, are affected by the plan to create a 75-meter “buffer zone” around the airport runway, in compliance with the requirements of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP).
“Ang maximum demand ay walang demolition na mangyayari. Kung nasaan sila, dun na, at wala nang expansion para di lalo maipit yung airport. Ang minimum, kung talagang i-go-go, ay dapat sigurado yung relocation site ng mga affected na residente,” an Ornus organizer, Daisy Bagni said on Wednesday, February 8.
(Our maximum demand is that no demolition will take place. Where they are, they will stay there, and there will be no expansion so we do not further encroach on the airport. Our minimum demand if they will push through is, that there will be guaranteed relocation for the residents affected.)
A small group of residents was formed to lobby with the government for the retention of their homes, but Bagni said the group must be expanded to better represent the needs of the community.
The residents are also negotiating that in case demolition pushes through, this is carried out in staggered phases to allow the community time to relocate properly.
“Hindi minsanan yung 300. Pwede paunti-unti. Kasi kapag sabay-sabay yan, paano na yung mga tao (Do not do the 300 at once. We can do it bit by bit. Because if it all happens at once, how will the people fare)?,” Bagni said.
The negotiations were spurred by the CAAP order in December 2022 for the construction of a 75-meter buffer zone around the Loakan runway to address security and safety concerns.
The buffer zone will include the clearing of the runway of houses and commercial areas, especially in Sitio Pongasan, where residents have intruded on the runway.
Access roads were constructed to redirect resident traffic but residents still use the vicinity of the airport for their commute needs.
Earlier, Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong declared a commitment to support the residents in negotiations with the CAAP.
But the retired general also stressed that the city will comply with the CAAP’s decisions.
“At the end of the day, it’s CAAP who is the deciding factor. LGU will just endorse positively the request of the community, but CAAP is the deciding body,” Magalong said.
According to Magalong, the 75-meter buffer zone can help protect lives and lessen the possibility of terrorist attacks on the airport.
“We cannot compromise safety and security. Sometimes, we are only concerned with safety, but security is more important, especially the need to maintain the 75-meter distance,” Magalong said.
Angel Castillo is a recipient of the Journalism for Nation Building Foundation’s Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship 2023. This story was initially published on Rappler.com as part of the Aries Rufo Fellowship.