Mayor Benjamin Magalong, on December 27, 2022, signed a city council resolution granting amnesty to long-time residents inside watersheds in the city for water supply connections. The resolution was passed unanimously by the members of the Baguio City Council on December 19, 2022. The resolution asserted that the right of every citizen to have access to clean water should be respected and should be of higher importance than certain policies without necessarily condoning their acts of occupying the watershed areas.

“The government, as part of its commitment under the international and national laws, must respect and promote the basic human needs to access clean water for their survival, sanitation, and hygiene,” the resolution stressed. The resolution further authorized the Baguio Water District (BWD) to approve pending applications as long as they are qualified based on all other necessary requirements.

The council resolution was a result of the forum in the city council on November 21, 2022. Prior to the forum, Pablo Pawi, punong barangay of Pinget, wrote to the city council to ask for help with their appeal for a water service connection. Attached in the letter was a list of 25 residents in Pinget not serviced by the BWD. Attending the said forum, Atty. Chanell Dolor de Guzman, BWD Senior Corporate Counsel, stressed that Proclamation No. 93, s. 1992 which established the Buyog
Watershed withdrew the entire area from entry sale, disposition, or settlement.

“Inasmuch as we understand the predicament of the petitioners considering that, indeed, water is a basic human right, the BWD’s hands are tied by restrictions due to the fact that we have to protect the water sources therein,” de Guzman explained. The city council members mentioned that, aside from Proclamation No. 93, s. 1992, Section 5-f of Ordinance 67-2009 categorically prohibits the
installation of electric and water supply to structures that are “within government reservations, school areas, national and forest reservations, duly identified watershed areas, road right-of-ways and on dangerous areas as identified by the proper government agency.”

De Guzman claimed the BWD had not granted any application for structures situated within forest and watershed reservations since the passage of the ordinance. She added no exemption had been given to any applicant residing within a reservation so as not to create any precedent. Based on a DENR-CAR survey as relayed by de Guzman, of the 20 hectares delineated for the Buyog Watershed, 12 hectares has already been occupied by settlers while the remaining 7.92 hectares is still forested.

SP/Jordan G. Habbiling

Amianan Balita Ngayon