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City to continue anti-squatting drive despite P-noy order halting evictions

BAGUIO CITY – Mayor Mauricio Domogan Monday said the city will continue to implement demolition orders and pursue its thrust to protect its watersheds, forest reservations and road right-of-ways despite President Benigno Aquino III’s order suspending evictions of informal settlers in said critical areas in the country.

The mayor said the city does not mean to openly defy the President’s order but the decision to uphold its anti-squatting stance would better serve the city’s interest which, the mayor believes would also be the President’s desire.

Moreover, the mayor said he believes that the President’s directive was not meant to abet squatting in such critical areas as watersheds and road right-of-ways especially in areas like Baguio City where there are only few remaining forested areas.

“I don’t believe that with his directive, the President meant to tolerate the illegal activities of squatters in undermining our watersheds so we will continue to proceed (with our thrust to stop and remove these squatters),” the mayor said during last Monday’s meeting with the city department heads.

The city has numerous demolition orders up for implementation covering illegal structures built on watersheds, forest reservations, road right-of-ways, river and creek beds and private titled lots.   The implementation of most of the orders was suspended mainly due to pending court cases.

During the meeting, Councilor Erdolfo Balajadia said the city can skirt the President’s directive by exercising its power of summary demolition and dismantling the structures outright or at the moment their illegality was established through speedy investigations.

The city has been implementing the policy on summary demolition on illegal structures within the protected areas since it stepped up its anti-squatting drive in the light of the squatters’ invasion of forest reservations like the Forbes Park and others.

The mayor agreed that squatting can be prevented through swift action as in the case of the new constructions at the Busol watershed which were reported to the department heads the other Monday and which were immediately stopped after investigations by the city building and architecture office under Engr. Oscar Flores.

The court had also just recently reaffirmed the need to protect the Busol watershed by removing illegal structures at the site.

MTC Branch 3 Judge Maria Ligaya Itliong-Rivera  in a decision handed down last December sentenced Julio Daluyen who was said to own one of the largest illegal structures at the Busol watershed to a one-year imprisonment for illegally constructing his residential building within the area.  She also ordered Daluyen to pay a P20,000 fine and to vacate the reservation. 

The President on January 28 directed national government agencies and local government units to suspend the eviction of informal settlers in the country.

Alarmed by the possible repercussions of the order in the city which is facing numerous eviction cases against lot speculators, the mayor wrote Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo pointing out the flaws of the directive.

He said the directive contradicts Republic Act No. 7279 or the Urban Development Housing Act which has already established the guidelines on what structures cannot be demolished.

He said the city is strictly complying with the R.A. 7279 by demolishing only structures that are not covered by exemptions provided for in the law.

“It appears likewise that the directive is ordering us not to demolish structures that will be constructed from now on road right-of-ways, watersheds, forest reservations, parks among others which we respectfully submit as violative of existing laws,” the mayor lamented.

“In short, the city is being prevented to do its duty to protect our watersheds, parks, forests, road right-of-ways, school sites by demolishing structures illegally constructed on the said areas”.

 
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