BAGUIO CITY July 13 – The State-owned Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) said it will respect legitimate ancestral land claims within the 686-hectare Camp John Hay (CJH) forest reservation but it will work out the cancellation of fraudulently issued claims of purported indigenous peoples claiming ownership of properties within the area.
Lawyer Arnel Paciano D. Casanova, BCDA president and chief executive officer, cited the national government adheres to the noble purpose of Republic Act (RA) 831 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) and those having legitimate claims inside the forest reservation will be respected.
“We will extend our assistance to facilitate the processing of legitimate ancestral claims if we are able to find out that they are authentic but we will fight for the cancellation of fraudulent claims that tend to compromise the real purpose of the IPRA,” Casanova stressed.
He admitted before local officials that there are some legitimate ancestral land claims in the reservation while there are also anomalously issued claims, thus, the need for the BCDA and the city government to validate the existing claims to find out which are legitimate or not in order to guide the State corporation on their future actions.
According to him, the city government should assist the BCDA in ascertaining which among the claims are legitimate or not so that it would be easier on their part to work with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) for the cancellation of anomalous ancestral land claims.
If the ancestral claims are found to be legitimate, Casanova assured city and barangay officials that BCDA will even assist the claimants for the realization of their claims within the reservation.
He claimed there are several reports that reached the BCDA that there are some fraudulently issued claims over the reservation, thus, the need for JHMC to validate the same and request for their cancellation in the future through appropriate legal proceedings.
Casanova cited the intention of the passage of IPRA was noble because it gives recognition to indigenous peoples rights over their properties that they were able to occupy since time in memorial provided that they are able to show proof of such legitimacy and BCDA is also inclined to respect such prior rights over the former military bases not only in the city but also in other parts of the archipelago where its operates.
The BCDA official asserted the city government and the corporation should be partners in getting rid of fraudulent ancestral claims to give justice to those with legitimate ancestral claims over the various portions of the reservation.
He said the BCDA will continue to extend utmost respect to the city government in ascertaining whether or not existing ancestral claims over portions of the reservation are legitimate or not so that the government will be able to push through with appropriate proceedings so as not to compromise whatever future actions that will be taken against those who resorted to fraud to acquire their respective ancestral claims over some portions of barangays within the John Hay reservation.