While the national government is busy defending its claim to Scarborough Shoal against China, a battle among three local governments is heating up for the right to call Fort Bonifacio—a rapidly growing business center east of the Makati Central Business District—their own.
Pateros, the only municipality and smallest local government unit in Metro Manila, has filed a civil case before the Taguig Regional Trial Court (RTC) seeking to reclaim the 461.56-hectare Fort Bonifacio area from the jurisdiction of Taguig, based on documents obtained by the Inquirer.
The lawsuit also wants Makati to give up control over the barangays of Cembo, South Cembo, West Rembo, East Rembo, Comembo, Pembo and Pitogo which have a total land area of 304.45 hectares.
Aside from its territorial claim, the Pateros municipal government also asked the court to compel the two cities to return to it the revenues they collected over the years since Makati took over the barangays in 1986 and Fort Bonifacio was placed under Taguig’s jurisdiction in 1992.
According to Pateros Councilor Dominador Rosales Jr., one of the several people who researched the bases for the petition, the municipality has exercised jurisdiction over the two areas since the Spanish and American periods.
“We have legal documents that show that the whole of Fort Bonifacio, including Bonifacio Global City, the whole of McKinley Hills, and the seven barangays … are all within the legal jurisdiction of the municipality of Pateros,” he told the Inquirer.
In the 28-page petition raffled off to presiding Judge Paz Esperanza Cortez of the Taguig RTC Branch 271, Pateros claimed that the two areas have been under its control since it was named an independent town in 1801. At that time, Fort Bonifacio and the seven barangays were collectively called Barrio Mamancat, one of Pateros’ five barrios.
Subsequent land surveys referred to the areas, which cover a total of 766 hectares, as Parcel 4. By the time of then President Diosdado Macapagal, the area was still recognized as part of Pateros.
However, a proclamation order issued by President Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 claimed that Parcel 4, at that time a military reservation being opened up for public use, was part of Makati City. This was affirmed by his successor, then President Corazon Aquino, in another proclamation order issued in 1990.
“Plaintiff’s [Pateros’] deprivation of its hold and reign over the seven barangays, now allegedly within the boundary of defendant Makati, was effected by the two proclamations. These proclamations are void … because [they] altered the boundary of the plaintiff which, by law, only Congress can do [by] … plebiscite …,” the petition read.
Meanwhile, Pateros alleged that Taguig started occupying Fort Bonifacio in 1992 while the military reservation was being put up for sale.
“Knowing that part of the military reservation, including Parcel 4, will be developed into a commercial district, defendant Taguig illegally invaded, took control and unlawfully exercised its authority over the portion of Parcel 4 with an area of 461.56 hectares,” the petition added.
“Because of that illegal occupation and unlawful invasion and taking over of Parcel 4 which is now a commercial district, plaintiff is not only deprived of its jurisdiction over [the area], but most of all, deprived of the yearly taxes and revenues derived from realty taxes, permits and licenses of all establishment situated therein and such improvements that plaintiff may utilize to meet the present demand as an urbanized town,” it said.
According to Pateros, government documents show that it has a total land area of 1,040 hectares.
“To reinforce the claim of the plaintiff’s alleged land area of 1,040 hectares, it has been receiving yearly Internal Revenue Allotments in the amount equivalent to 1,040 hectares … In the Land Area of Municipalities in Metro Manila, updated as of Nov. 30, 2001 …, plaintiff allegedly has an area of 1,040 hectares,” the petition read.
Rosales said they have been fighting for Fort Bonifacio since the late 1980s without any positive results until the Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that the municipality should try to settle the issue amicably with both Makati and Taguig.
“We have talked to the City Council of Makati while Taguig [has yet to] answer our invitation for a dialogue … Because of this failure, we are filing this case in court, hoping that we would reclaim what is rightfully ours,” Rosales added.
He stressed that the case was important to the local government because its current land area does not provide much room for revenue growth compared to the billions of pesos that Makati and Taguig are raking in.