TUBA, Benguet – The municipal government is losing approximately P70 million annually in its Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) because of alleged overlapping claims in some 15,000 hectares of land supposed to be within the town’s jurisdiction.
Mayor Ignacio Rivera disclosed that the town has a total land area of more than 44,000 hectares but it is only receiving its IRA computed over the more than 29,000 hectares that is legally within the town’s jurisdiction wherein it only gets around P140 million IRA.
“There is no actual dispute with our neighboring towns of Itogon in Benguet, Baguio City, Pugo in La Union and Sison in Pangasinan because what is existing are alleged overlapping claims of certain tracks of land that is why we are exerting all possible efforts to put an end to the overlapping claims to allow a significant increase in our annual IRA which will be given back to the people through the implementation of our priority development projects and the improvement of the delivery of basic services to them,” Rivera stressed.
The local chief executive raised the observation that if the Pangasian, La Union, and Benguet provincial boards will continue to delay the immediate resolution of the overlapping claims, then the problem will not be settled the soonest. It would deprive the concerned local governments their real share from the IRA given by the national government.
Councilor Joshelle Ruth Bancilo, chairperson of the municipal council committee on laws, said the local government already sent the needed query to the Region I office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) questioning why it approved the survey of Sison, Pangasinan without considering the approved survey of Tuba, Benguet way back in 2008 before instituting the appropriate legal remedy against the erring DENR officials.
Bancilo claimed that what the Region I office of the DENR should have done once the survey of Sison, Pangasinan was presented to them for approval was to refer the matter to their counterparts in the Cordillera to thresh out the problems of overlapping before approving the town’s survey, considering Tuba already has basis for its actual land area based on a 2008 survey and should have been one of the supposed references.
Aside from resorting to the appropriate legal remedies, the local lady legislator said the municipal government will also welcome the conduct of negotiations by responsible officials from the concerned and involved towns so their agreements will be formalized by the provincial boards hearing the boundary disputes. Their constituents would be able to enjoy the benefits of increased IRA from the national government for whatever development projects in the locality that will be funded and implemented.
Tuba officials expressed optimism that the meetings done with their counterparts in their neighboring municipalities will succeed in the coming months so a “win-win solution” could be agreed upon for the immediate settlement of their problems on the overlapping claims over vast tracks of land.
In the case of its dispute with Baguio City, Mayor Rivera claimed local officials are simply awaiting the action of Congress on the re-filed revision of the century-old City Charter that will formalize the swapping of their properties to address the overlapping claims over the existing municipal hall of Tuba.