Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, alarmed by the fast deterioration of the city’s water sources ordered the Baguio City police to launch round-the-clock patrols over Busol and Buyog watersheds to ensure that no new structure will be built within what was left of the forest reservations. Magalong issued the order amid the demolition activities at the Busol watershed where two concrete structures in the process of being built at East Bayan Park part of the reservation were dismantled by a joint team led by the City Buildings and Architecture Office (CBAO) on February 27 and March 1.

The structures were previously covered by a court’s temporary restraining order preventing the city government from carrying out demolition activities which became possible after the owners failed
to secure a court injunction. The CBAO said demolition operations on structures within the reservations that violate the agreement earlier reached by the occupants and the city government are continuing. Last year, the CBAO demolished three existing small structures and had begun the
demolition of close to ten huge constructions in Liteng side of the Busol watershed when a TRO was issued by the court.

“Any new structure being built especially in protected areas should be immediately demolished,” the mayor who earlier issued an executive order said.  Buyog watershed’s forested area had decreased from 19 hectares to only seven hectares now. During Magalong’s first term as mayor in 2019, he led a series of dialogues with the watershed occupants informing them of the city’s
demolition of illegal structures even before the COVID-19 pandemic. “We need to finally put an
end to this decades long problem, we shall continue to take action and remove illegal
settlers within our watersheds for the benefit of the people,” the mayor said.

In 2021, the city government had an agreement with around 150 occupants and heads of the four barangays straddling the Busol reservation for them to cooperate with the city by refraining from introducing improvements or expansion of their existing structures, helping guard against further
intrusions and undertaking preservation measures for the watershed. However, the mayor said a recent inspection of the site showed stark violation of the agreement as there were expansions undertaken and new structures that mushroomed to the detriment of the forest reserve and water
resource of the city.

The mayor stressed, while the city gives humanitarian consideration to the predicament of the occupants many of whom are ancestral land claimants who claimed to be long-time settlers of the
forest reserve – law and order must be respected.

Artemio Dumlao/ABN

Amianan Balita Ngayon