The Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) has refused to acknowledge the ancestral land titles of the Ibaloi indigenous peoples (IP) in Camp John Hay (CJH), Baguio City, insisting on its “vested rights” over all inactive US military camps in the country.
BCDA senior vice president and head of its legal department Elvira Estanislao, announced the agency’s stand in a recent Baguio City council session.
Elvira also disclosed that the Office of the Solicitor General requested that the Supreme Court (SC) nullify all land titles granted to the Ibaloi by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) within the 600-hectare land.
The BCDA was created under Republic Act (RA) No. 7277, with the mandate of repurposing and developing the former bases into economic growth sites.
This mandate is the basis for the BCDA’s rejection of the ancestral land claims of the Ibaloi, as they insist on land ownership since CJH was an American base years before RA 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), was approved in 1997.
However, Councilors Isabel Cosalan and Arthur Allad-iw stated that of the 19 conditions under City Resolution No. 362 for the endorsement of CJH’s privatization in 1994, number five was the recognition of IP land claims within CJH.
Of the 14 barangays, Happy Hallow village was granted a certificate of ancestral domain title (CADT) in 2006 to acknowledge and honor Baguio’s Ibaloi-Kankanaey community that has lived in the city area long before American development.