City seeks to reclaim BIBAK lot

BAGUIO CITY – The city council on Monday served intention to acquire ownership of the BIBAK lot along Harrison Road here which is presently mired in occupancy issues involving barangay officials and members of the Cordillera People's Liberation Army (CPLA).

The body agreed to apply for the acquisition of the land for public needs after confirming that the lot which remains a government property cannot be transferred to the Centralized Benguet-Ifugao-Bontoc-Apayao-Kalinga (BIBAK) Association being a private entity.

The status of the lot was again brought to the fore as the body conducted an inquiry over complaints of alleged harassment lodged by barangay officials against CPLA members occupying the BIBAK multi-purpose building built at the area during the time of the Cordillera Regional Assembly and the Cordillera Executive Board (CEB).

Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources Cordillera (DENR-CAR) representative Edgar Flor who attended the inquiry said the lot was plotted in the name of the Centralized Bibak Association but was not issued a proclamation as the national government cannot name it to the said association being a private organization.

Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda said that since the lot cannot be transferred to the association, the city government might as well acquire it for public purposes.

The body also approved the motion of Councilor Erdolfo Balajadia for the DENR to conduct an investigation to find out the extent of occupancy of the building and land.

The Office of the President will also be requested to appoint the city government as manager of the multi-purpose building while its status remains in question.

Councilor Joel Alangsab said this would settle the confusion on who has the authority to manage building and settle the rift between barangay officials and CPLA members staying in the building.

It was informed that the authorization earlier issued by former Presidential Assistant Undersecretary Renato Diaz to the CPLA to occupy the building has been rescinded but the members remained in the area.

Harrison-Carantes punong barangay Helen Medina complained before the body that CPLA members are even leasing out portions of the building and are harassing barangay officials who hold office in the building for their barangay hall.

CPLA Abra Zone 1 commander John Blue said the matter has been addressed in a dialogue brokered by Mayor Mauricio Domogan recently and assured that the CPLA members complained against had been advised to observe proper conduct and respect the barangay officials.

The renting out of spaces was also clarified during the dialogue and the city mayor did not pose objection as the proceeds of the lease was being used for the maintenance of the building.

Blue also committed to inform stall owners leasing out spaces in the building to comply with the business permit requirement of the city.

After hearing the sides of the parties, the body on motion of Councilor Edison Bilog voted to request the DENR to allow Harrison-Carantes barangay to set up office at the pemises upon application of the barangay.

The body also adopted Councilor Philian Louise Weygan-Allan's suggestion for the City Zoning Board and the permits and licensing division to conduct an investigation and close all existing businesses in the area which do not comply with city ordinances.

The said lot used to house the dormitory for students from the Cordillera region previously managed by the Centralized Benguet-Ifugao-Bontoc-Apayao-Kalinga (BIBAK) Association.

Two buildings were said to have been constructed on said lot in the early 1960's and were managed by the BIBAK Association as a dormitory for students from the Cordilleras.

The management of the buildings were turned over to the then Ministry of Human Settlements-National Housing Authority.

In 1983, the city engineer issued a demolition order to pave the way for the construction of student housing facilities by the said agencies but the planned demolition was aborted with the abolition of the MHS-NHA.

In 1990, the CEB caused the construction of the BIBAK multi-purpose building on the site of the former dormitory but there was no record of a building permit for said structure.

In November of same year, the CEB turned over the building to the Office of the National Cultural Communities but the Cordillera Regional Assembly continued to occupy the facility.

In 2006, former mayor Braulio Yaranon ordered the demolition of a structure being built on the lot based on the complaint of then BIBAK Students Dormitory Inc. president Constancio Manglan.

On the same year, the municipal council of Tuba town in Benguet passed a resolution inquiring from the Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Land Management Bureau on the status of said dormitory site with the hope of reviving the project to help Igorot students facing hardship in renting boarding houses. – A Refuerzo

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