Resolution No. 362, series of 1994 details the 19 conditions imposed by the City Government of Baguio for the proposed privatization of the 247-hectare John Hay Special Economic Zone (JHSEZ) which was part of the 625-hectare Camp John Hay forest reservation. Condition No. 14 provides that the State-owned Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) and its subsidiary, the John Hay Management Corporation (JHMC), should exclude the 14 barangays of the city that are situated within the reservation. Republic Act (RA) 7227 created the BCDA purposely to maximize the potentials of the former American military bases in generating income that will be used for the modernization of the country’s armed forces after the Philippine Senate junked the renewal of the RP-US agreement in 1991.
The first members of the BCDA Board unanimously approved the conditions imposed by the local government for the development of the former American air station which means that the government recognizes the plight of the city in pursuing the desired development of the declared special economic zone inside Camp John Hay. In 1998, BCDA decided to earmark funds for the conduct of the required survey as the initial step in the realization of the segregation process because the said survey was not actually completed because there were some barangays that refused to allow the entry of the surveyors of the commissioned contractor to undertake the activities because of false information that the government is out to take the lands of the inhabitants.
In 2001, it was the turn of the local government to allocate funds for the completion of the survey of the metes and bounds of the 14 barangays within the John Hay reservation but the survey was not again realized because of some technical problems that were eventually addressed by the concerned parties with the approval of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
The changes in the leadership of the BCDA and JHMC also contributed in the failure of the segregation of the barangays from the forest reservation because of their different views on how to undertake the process considering that city officials have their own stand on the matter.
During the previous administration, BCDA and JHMC stood firm on their position that it will only be the occupied areas that will be segregated from the reservation that created a stalemate because the local government insisted on its position that it should be the whole area, whether occupied or unoccupied, of the barangays that will be segregated.
It is now the fifth administration of the country that will administer the long overdue promise of the segregation of the barangays from the forest reservation and the recent positive pronouncements of newly-installed BCDA and JHMC officials have given the inhabitants of the barangays within the reservation the chance to have their lands titled once the said barangays will be segregated from the reservation. The barangays that are supposed to be segregated from the reservation include Happy Hallow, Country Club Village, Lucnab, Loakan Apugan, Loakan Liwanag, Loakan Proper, Scout Barrio, Upper Dagsian, Lower Dagsian, Hillside, Camp 7, Greenwater Village, Santa Escolastika and Military Cut-off.
We support the initiative of city officials and BCDA and JHMC executives to sit down and discuss the pertinent issues surrounding the segregation process to find the solutions to the identified obstacles in the pursuit of the segregation of the barangays from the Cam John Hay reservation. While there is still a chance to settle the problems in a peaceful and orderly manner, let us not deviate from such means of settling disputes because we are in the age of consultations for us to put things in their proper perspectives.
Concerned parties must avoid ‘barking at the wrong tree’ because it might result to further conflicts that could lead to unsettled issues that will be detrimental in the realization of the desired segregation of the barangays from the reservation for inhabitants to have a chance to own their lands and have the opportunity of introducing improvements to their structures without being monitored by concerned personnel of JHMC. We have to understand that the lands occupied by the people in the 14 barangays are still within the forest reservation and that lands in the said reservation are considered to be inalienable and indisposable, thus, titling of such lands is actually prohibited under existing laws, except if reclassified after the segregation process shall have been fulfilled.
We urge concerned government agencies to also help in the realization of the long overdue commitment of the government to segregate the barangays from the reservation by facilitating the synchronization of the survey results so that whatever technical defects will be cured and to put in place the metes and bounds of the barangays.
While the degradation process is underway, we also call on the inhabitants of the barangays to respect the polices and guidelines implemented by BCDA and JHMC over the reservation because we have to admit to the fact that they are still governed by such policies until such time that the said barangays will be segregated from the forest reservation in the future. We appreciate the proactive stand of the new BCDA and JHMC management over the said issue that is why we are also optimistic that the issue could be resolved the soonest or even before the end of the term of the present administration.