BAGUIO CITY— The Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) did not recognize ancestral land titles issued inside Camp John Hay as Baguio’s only ancestral domain, after it pointed out that the real owner was the early 19th-century statesman, John Hay himself.
The BCDA’s view on administrative and proprietary rights over Camp John Hay was that it was already a military facility of the United States in the early 1900s, long before the 1997 law recognizing indigenous peoples (IP) rights was enforced.
Atty. Elvira Estanislao, BCDA senior vice president and head of its legal department, said that the BCDA created by Republic Act No. 7277 has “vested rights” over all former US military camps that it is tasked to develop into economic growth centers.
She confirmed also that the Office of the Solicitor General had asked the Supreme Court to nullify all Ibaloy land titles issued by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) inside the 600-hectare Camp John Hay reservation.
The disclosures were made during the city council session early this week.
Baguio City councilors Arthur Allad-iw and Isabelo Cosalan, however, disputed the BCDA’s allegation over Camp John Hay’s rightful owner in saying that the Ibaloy land claim was one of the 19 conditions set by the Baguio government in 1995, in exchange for the city’s endorsement of the privatization plans for Camp John Hay then.
It was also pointed out that the recognition of land claims by IPs inside Camp John Hay is a fifth condition of City Resolution No. 362, which was approved in 1994.
BCDA executive vice president Aileen Zosa said the agency would abide by all of its commitments to Baguio, but within the bounds of the law.
Zosa said the BCDA would comply with all the conditions “for as long as they do not contradict laws like RA 7227 (the BCDA law, which had since been amended).”
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