Baguio Urban Poor Push for Charter Change

After the impeachment complaint, the members of the House of Representatives are expected to deliberate on the 2006 national budget and to start the so-called great debate on changing the 1987 Constitution. It may interest legislators to know that the urban poor in Baguio City are calling for charter change, but of a different kind.

Northern Dispatch

BAGUIO CITY — The urban poor in this city (246 kms from Manila) have taken to the streets to call for charter change.

But before pro-charter change national government officials jump for joy, it must be stressed that the Baguio urban poor are not referring to the 1987 Philippine Constitution but their city’s charter which marked its 96th year last Sept. 1.

In a rally at the Kilometer 0 here, Geraldine Cacho, chair emeritus of the Organisasyon dagiti Nakurapay nga Umili iti Syudad (Ornus, or Organization of the Urban Poor) said that Sept. 1, 1909 must be considered as the day when “imperialist encroachment into the Cordillera people’s territory” happened.

She said that the Americans drafted the current Baguio Charter and sold Ibaloy (an indigenous people’s group) lands to foreigners and moneyed families from the metropolitan cities.

Under the Baguio Charter, public lands that are alienable and disposable may be expropriated through the Townsite Sales Application (TSA) system which the Americans introduced. According to Ornus, the TSA is anti-poor because it allows the sale of lands only to the highest bidder.

“Kasano a makatagikua ti dagdaga dagiti nakurapay nga umili iti syudad no ti mismo a linteg ti mangkuna a saan a mabalin?” (How could the poor acquire lands in the city when the law says they could not?), Cacho asked.

In the Charter Day program, Baguio City Mayor Braulio Yaranon said that the city was intended for only 25,000 people. Almost 100 years later, Baguio’s population has grown to about 300,000.

During a land congress of Ornus last Aug. 31, representatives of the city’s urban poor pushed for an amendment of the Baguio City Charter to scrap the TSA system. They also called on the local government to award the lands in urban poor settlements to their actual occupants and to stop the demolition of urban poor dwellings.

The land congress discussed the situation of land ownership in the districts occupied by informal settlers from the provinces. These include three of the most populated districts, namely Irisan’s Cypress Point, Lime Kiln, San Carlos and Idugan; District 12’s Kias, Atok Trail, Fort del Pilar, Loakan, Liwanag and Apugan; and Fairview and Tacay areas. (

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