Sagada folk assert ownership of Kiltepan peak

Northern Dispatch

SAGADA, Mountain Province – As a way of asserting people’s ownership of the Kiltepan tourist spot, some 100 guides and residents of Sagada destroyed the newly-installed gate and fence of the property that is now being claimed by Wilson Capuyan, along the road leading to Kiltepan peak here, May 22.

Kiltepan peak is a tourist spot and community gathering area. Sagada Municipal Ordinance No. 01-2009 declares it as the “Kiltepan Picnic Ground and View Deck” and “recogniz[es] the same as public property….beyond private appropriation”. It is also claimed by the people of Kilong, Tetep-an Sur and Norte, and Antadao (KILTEPAN) as ancestral land.

But Kiltepan peak is also a disputed property. Separate applications for Certificate of Ancestral Land Title (CALT) have been filed by the siblings Fely Capuyan Omengan and Wilson Capuyan. The land was once under the control of the Lam-en family, and this family allegedly sold it to Piltel, which erected a communications tower here. According to the NCIP investigation report on the CALT application of Capuyan, the telecommunications site reverted back to the Lam-ens after it was burned. But in the same NCIP investigation report, the property was legitimately acquired by Capuyan. The resolution of the issue of ownership, however, was still an ongoing process in the courts.

Sagada residents are raising questions as to how the Kiltepan peak became “owned” or “claimed” by individuals. If the area has been recognized as a public park and as part of the ancestral domain of the KILTEPAN villages, why is the NCIP upholding the ownership of the land by individuals? Why have these individuals been allowed to install “improvements” here? Who is in charge of enforcing the law or implementing ordinances? The Municipal Government of Sagada? The NCIP? Or the KILTEPAN people?

For decades, tourists and locals entered the Kiltepen peak freely. It was only some years ago that a wooden gate was installed along the dirt road. But anyone could pass through the gate. It even bore the sign, “Isublim nan baked, maawatam” (Put back the gate, understood?).

Recently, Capuyan installed a new gate with concrete posts and a steel grid. He, however, included a narrow but open passage on one side, such that the gate allowed people access to the area but barred the entry of large cattle.

Some of the tourist guides who joined the demolition said they did so because they feared that in the future, the family of Capuyan would allow tourists and locals to enter the area only if they paid a fee.

“Preventing tourists from freely entering Kiltepan peak would be contrary to our purpose of establishing a coffee shop near the tourist spot, and this is to earn an income,” a guide named Bernan said. But he admitted that people were not yet being denied access to the area. In fact, he said, “the only time the gate is padlocked is at night. This is to prevent further theft because some construction materials (GI pipe, stainless pipe, one roll of electric wire) were stolen from their (Wilson Capuyan’s) house.” Capuyan gave a duplicate of the key to the padlock to the tourist guide association, SAGGAS, so that tourists and guides could enter even at night.

Since 2010, lawsuits have been filed by spouses Josephine and Samuel Dawas against Capuyan, others against Wilson and Fely Capuyan Omengan. In September 2010, the siblings agreed to have the case settled by the courts. The Compromise Agreement says “Mrs. Fely Omengan….agrees to cease and desist from entering the property….or performing or undertaking any work or activity or introducing improvements thereon, either by herself or through her representatives.”

Last April 4, the 3rd Municipal Trial Court of Besao-Sagada issued a writ of preliminary injunction ordering Capuyan to “cease and desist from constructing a structure on the subject land,” and this May 8, it issued another preliminary injunction. But the court orders also acknowledged that “existing improvements could no longer be restrained or enjoined. Thus, “Repairs, renovations and paintings of existing structures are not to be restrained…Planting of fruits on the land is allowed. What is not allowed is to erect a new building or to enlarge his existing house….”

A municipal official said that the gate obstructs a provincial road and thus merits being torn down. But the question is, if the new gate is obstructing a supposedly provincial road, why was the old wooden gate allowed to be erected and to remain standing there for years? Or why did the Provincial Engineer’s Office not take down the old gate as well as the new one erected by Capuyan? Other Sagada residents said that, to their knowledge, the road was opened to accommodate the installation of the telecommunications tower during the Lam-en period, and that it was a private road. It may have been that public funds were allocated to improve the road, but they did not know whether it was a barangay, farm-to-market, or provincial road.Northern Dispatch

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