Baguio City Council has initiated mediation over a land dispute between the local government unit and some farmers belonging to indigenous peoples in Irisan Barangay. The disputed land is a
5,000-square meter lot donated to the City Government of Baguio by the heirs of Felipe Pucay in 2001.The lot was intended for the construction of the city’s Social Welfare Center (Bahay Pag-asa) operated by the City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO).

Also, the development plan for the halfway home for rebel returnees which is now under construction and the upcoming retirement home for the elderly will be implemented within the 5,000-sqm lot. A perimeter fence surrounding the lot has been erected to secure the area. A portion of the lot with an area of 1,299 sqm, however, appears to overlap the claim of the family of the late Frumencio Salda.

In his letter to the city council, Froilan Salda, eldest son of the late Frumencio Salda, claimed that the lot owned by one of the heirs of Pucay was waived to his father in 2002. According to Froilan
Salda, he was charged by then City Social Welfare and Development Officer Betty Fangasan for illegal fencing in 2020 and was asked to pay a P10,000.00 fine. He also claimed that he and his fellow land claimants who are farmers were prohibited to access the road along the Social Welfare Center.

To help thresh out the matter, the city council invited all the concerned parties to attend the
regular session last march 27. Nestor Mestito, CSWDO representative, said the said land dispute had been the subject of court litigation and has already been decided by the court. He said the land claimants filed a case of recovery of possession and damages, but the case was dismissed by the court. Mestito said the road along the Social Welfare Center was closed upon the recommendation of the court to ensure the safety of the children in the area.

Also attending the session, the land claimants said they are using the lot for farming and gardening which is the source of their livelihood. They stressed that the closure of the road burdens the farmers who transport their products going up and down the mountain. Meanwhile, Councilor Isabelo Cosalan Jr. claimed that the city government had been “acting on its own” regarding the use of the donated lot without consulting the co-owners of the land including the Salda family.

The city council requested CSWDO and the City Buildings and Architecture Office (CBAO) to
reopen the road pending the resolution of the dispute. The city council’s Committee on Laws, Human Rights, and Justice chaired by Councilor Peter Fianza will conduct an ocular inspection in the area and at the same time conduct a hearing among all the parties concerned including the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to thoroughly discuss the matter.

One of the issues that needs to be addressed during the hearing is the validity of the deed of donation which is now being questioned because of the seeming lack of conformity by the other coowners on the intent of Elsie Kiwas-Pucay, one of the heirs of Felipe Pucay, to donate the land to the city government.

SP/Jordan G. Habbiling

Amianan Balita Ngayon