BAGUIO CITY – The Cordillera office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR-CAR) cited the proposed House bill excluding some 3 hectares from the Forbes Park forest reservation for housing purposes is not feasible due to its primary functions as one of the major sources of water supply of the city.
In a position paper submitted by DENR-CAR regional director Engr. Paquito T. Moreno, Jr. to the House committee on natural resources in relation to the said bill, he cited the disposition of the land to qualified homelot applicants through the miscellaneous sales application is not applicable.
“We regret to inform the House committee on natural resources that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources opposes the passage of House Bill No. 4976,”Moreno stressed.
HB 4976 seeks to exclude 3 hectares of land from Parcel 2 of Proclamation No. 10, otherwise known as Forbes forest reservation, situated at Residence Section ‘D’ Baguio City and to declare the same as residential land open for disposition under the provisions of Republic Act No. 730.
Forbes forest reservation was established on 09 February 1924 as forest reserve and bird sanctuary by Governor-General Leonard Wood under the jurisdiction of the then Bureau of Forestry. The Proclamation covers 3 parcels of land, one containing an area of 298,510 square meters, Parcel 2 containing an area of 168,615 square meters and Parcel 3 containing an area of 212,266 square meters.
It can be recalled that several portions of Parcel 1 and 2 were earlier segregated from the reservation through Proclamation No. 773, series of 1970 containing an approximate area of 80,890 square meters and Republic Act No. 8963, series of 2000 containing an area of 37,932 square meters, disposing the same for housing purposes to the actual qualified occupants under the pertinent provisions of the Public Land Act and RA 730.
Moreno explained the aforesaid parcels cover the barangays of Cabinet Hill, Engineers’ Hill, Marcoville, DPS Compound and Manuel Roxas. Likewise Parcel 3 is subject for release through House Bill No. 3829.
The DENR-CAR official explained Parcels 1 and @ of the Forbes forest reservation form part of the contiguous remaining forested area primary functioning as a veritable watershed in the heart of the city, critical to the water needs of the nearby barangays.
He cited for the said reason, the Baguio Water District (BWD) operates and maintains six pumping stations and that the area is also being protected by civic organizations like the Baguio Regreening Movement (BRM) in coordination with the city government.
Moreno revealed BRM, through fund solicitations, caused the fencing with hallow blocks and inter-link wires covering 20 hectares unoccupied and densely forested area of the forest reservation, including the construction of guard houses with the end view of protecting natural forest from further encroachment of squatters.
According to him, the area is also the site of tree planting activities among students, the civil society and professional groups for its upkeep and maintenance and that the release of the remaining forest reserve would greatly affect the aquifer and hydrologic conditions of the city’s water supply which is a matter of public interest and common needs including the air quality and character of the city as “City of Pines.”
Earlier, Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan also aired his objection to the passage of the bill, citing its serious negative effect to the state of the environment of the city considering that the area being eyed for segregation is thickly forested.
Domogan said if the area to be segregated will be that of Upper Gibraltar, which is already heavily inhabited, the city government will have no opposition to the same but if will be other areas that are still forested like that between the Botanical Garden and Cabinet Hill, then there is a reason for the city to oppose the same as it will have a serious negative effect to the overall state of the environment of the city.
By Dexter A. See