Issue of August 20, 2017
Mt. Province

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Last week’s demolition of structures within the 94-hectare Baguio Dairy Farm, some few kilometers away from the central business district, proceeded despite heartbreaking situations where hapless families could not help but cry while their houses are being flattened.

On the contrary, the city government has again acceded to the whims of Baguio City’s most favored informal settlers.

This time, the decision to move the demolition of the 58 structures within the Benguet-Ifugao-Bontoc-Apayao-Kalinga (Bibak) lot along Harrison Road from Aug. 15 to Oct. 15 was agreed upon between the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, the city government, and the informal settlers.

For the nth time, the parties have announced this will be the last time that the demolition will be reset.

We are no longer convinced that this will be the last extension of the deadline for the demolition.

The informal settlers at the Bibak lot were given until Aug. 13 to voluntarily demolish their structures and salvage whatever they can in their dwellings before the city government implements the demolition supposedly on Aug. 15 and 16.

Let us remember that the demolition was supposed to be carried out several years ago, but the same was not implemented for “humanitarian reasons” aside from the fact that the informal settlers have gone to the courts in their resolve to look for remedies that will make their stay in the area legal. They lost. The courts have upheld the legality of the city government’s move to evict them from the area, but the city, for several occasions, softened its stance.

Allow us to further refresh the memories of those who might have forgotten that on Jan. 18, the city government finally resolved to evict the Bibak lot settlers. But luck of all lucks, candidates of the Miss Universe were set to visit Baguio that day. The demolition was reset on Jan. 26 and 27 and was not again implemented because the settlers bargained and signed an undertaking that they will leave, supposedly on June 30.

Their commitment indicated that if they failed to leave the area on June 30, city government will “appoint, constitute, and name the Philippine National Police, City Demolition Task Force, the Office of the city mayor, and the City Buildings and Architecture Office to cause the demolition of the remaining structures in the area on July 1.”

No demolition took place after June 30. Instead, the deadline was set on Aug. 15 and 16.

We had hoped that the city government, with the help of concerned agencies, will finally have the guts to implement the long-delayed demolition. They failed us. Instead, they gave way to the whims of the chosen few and moved the demolition to Oct. 15 after the Bibak structures owners shall have finalized their negotiation with the owner of the property identified as their relocation area.

The 58 structure owners are just so privileged that their desire to cling on and make money out of a government property is always favored. How lucky of them that these government agencies are extending them so much support, one that other groups with similar plights cannot and will probably never experience.

We will never understand the continued accommodation of these privileged few; and until the demolition finally pushes through, we will continue doubting the sincerity of the parties, the city government especially, to fulfill their promises.

For numerous times, we counted on their words that, unfortunately, were not honored and perhaps will never be. What gives?



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