By ACE ALEGRE
BAGUIO CITY (March 23, 2011) — Vital and prime government properties in Baguio City are turning into private hands, a trend that “alarms” the city government.
This as the City Legal Office is set to file adverse claims over portions of Wright Park and Casa Vallejo, recently issued certificates of ancestral land titles by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).
Wright Park is located at the eastern part of the city and fronting the main gate of the Mansion. It is one of the many scenic parks in Baguio City. Its main features include the shallow elongated rectangular body of water known as the “Pool of Pines” and the park circle which is on one end of the park.
Casa Vallejo is Baguio’s grand dame of hotels built 90 years ago. The government closed it down in 1997 but old-timers here fought to preserve the pine-wood clad and relic-enamoured heritage building. It sits on a 2,160 square meter real estate along Session Road, Baguio’s main business thoroughfare.
Baguio officials discovered the titling of these prime government properties when heirs of the owners of the CALTs went to the City Assessors Office and asked for the issuance of a tax declaration.
In the case of Wright Park, City Assessor Augustus Medina said during plotting they found out that O-CALT 130 in the name of heirs of Josephine Molintas Abanag overlapped with a portion of the park.
Abanag though maintains that her CALT ‘is perfectly legal and the law on indigenous peoples supercedes even national laws to favor tribal peoples.’
Medina of the City Assessors’ Office said his office did not issue a tax declaration and has referred the application to the City Legal Office. “Although we can issue a tax declaration for taxation purposes, we decided to refer it to the CLO because the CALT owners might interpret it as the city’s concurrence that they own the property.”
Similarly, the Casa Vallejo property’s situation is like Wright Park.
The CALT over the Vallejo property is in the name of the heirs of Cosen Piraso.
Earlier this year, former commissioners of the NCIP were sued for issuance of ancestral titles in Forbes Park, a protected prime government reservation in Baguio.
Alarmed, the Council said this continuous titling of NCIP of vital pieces of public property is “causing unnecessary problems and putting the integrity of the land use plan in question including all existing developments, public and private infrastructures over areas covered by CALTs.