Mayor: planned change in land titling process will not abet squatting

BAGUIO CITY – The planned shift from townsite reservation to direct award mode of land titling as contained in the proposed amendment of the Baguio City Charter will not abet squatting in the city as the new process, once approved, will not cover applicants with illegitimate and dubious claims.

"This new process will not encourage squatting as it will cover only bonafide lot applicants and not those applicants with questionable claims including those in waterways, watersheds and road right-of-ways," Mayor Mauricio Domogan clarified on Wednesday.

The mayor said the change in the land disposal procedure as contained in the proposed charter amendment will on the contrary discourage land speculation as the titling process will be hastened in favor of the actual and qualified occupants of the land.

The mayor said the city needs the shift to direct award mode of titling to address the mounting townsite and miscellaneous sales applications that remain unacted due to the slow process involved in the city's present land disposition scheme which is based on its status as a townsite reservation.

He said there are around 5,600 applications that remain pending in the city and if not disposed will cause more problems in the long run.

He said many applications date back to as far as 30-50 years and the delay in titling opened the floodgates to squatting problems.

He said the delay also led to the shortchanging of the city government in terms of land taxes and permit fees as lot applicants because of the delay are allowed to occupy the land and build their homes without paying taxes and construction permits fees to the city government.

He said if approved, the direct award will speed up the process of awarding these public lands to actual and qualified beneficiaries and in doing so, will address the squatting problem and at the same time will assure payment of land taxes.

The mayor said the new process will shorten the procedures by localizing the members of the awards committee and by doing away with some of the steps including the bidding requirements.

The composition of the awards committee along with the land disposition process' conflict with the Free Patent Law remain as grey areas in the ongoing study of House Bill No. 3759 or An Act Revising the Charter of the City of Baguio.

The bill is now pending before the Senate committee on local government chaired by Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.

The city is expected to submit its position paper on the bill this week for consideration by Marcos' committee before the bill can be submitted for plenary debates and amendments in the Senate.

The city's position paper will delve on the salient amendments particularly on the implementation of the direct disposal and award of alienable public lands and the revisions in the functions of city departments.

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