A NEW House Bill filed by Baguio Lone District Representative Mark Go is the latest effort to get Baguio barangays out from under the control of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA). The bill is now pending the deliberation of the House Committee on Natural Resources this week.
House Bill No. 9428 releases 13 barangays from the territory of Camp John Hay to the Baguio government, including its roads, open spaces and structures like schools and converts the settlements there as alienable and disposable to allow households to title their lands, according to Go.
Once HB 9428 is approved, the Land Management Bureau (LMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD), in coordination with BCDA and John Hay Management Corporation (JHMC), are to cooperate in conducting a validation survey and will have the segregated lands in CJH sold to qualified occupants for fairness, equity, and efficiency of the process.
The 13 barangays to benefit from HB 9428 are Camp 7, Country Club Village, Greenwater, Happy Hallow, Hillside, Loakan-Apugan, Loakan-Liwanag, Loakan Proper, Lower Dagsian, Lucnab, Sta. Escolastica Village, Scout Barrio and Upper Dagsian. Among these, Happy Hallow has long been a point of additional concern as it is the city’s only duly recognized Ibaloi ancestral domain.
Under the bill, existing roads, parks, and other community places will be transferred to the local government for maintenance and management. Forested but not officially protected areas will also be preserved as green spaces.
However, forest areas under existing proclamations, areas occupied by national government agencies with existing agreements with BCDA and JHMC, including natural resources, shall remain public and be entrusted to the care of BCDA and JHMC. On the other hand, public elementary and secondary schools will be transferred to the Department of Education (DepEd).
According to Go, the segregation measure does not address issues plaguing Barangay Scout Barrio, a settlement built by former Camp John Hay employees. It is only intended to wrest the 13 barangays from the control of the BCDA, whose long-standing relationship with the Baguio government and populace has been wrought with controversy.
Notably, the BCDA previously agreed to 19 conditions in exchange for a 1994 city council endorsement of the master development plan that allowed the government to lease 288 hectares of the Camp John Hay reservation.
However, to this day, some conditions remain unfulfilled, such as the segregation of said barangays from the John Hay authorities and jurisdiction.
Last year, a bill modernizing Baguio’s 1909 city charter lapsed into law despite opposition from the city’s lawmakers, with nine councilors attempting to talk former President Rodrigo Duterte into vetoing bill upon finding out that it would separate Camp John Hay from Baguio’s townsite reservation, effectively limiting the authority the city could exert upon it.