NCIP, BCDA firm agree to keep genuine ancestral lands in Camp John Hay
BAGUIO CITY—The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and a government firm owned by the Bases Conversion and Development Authority agreed last week to honor ancestral land titles issued inside Camp John Hay, provided these prove to be genuine.
The board of directors of John Hay Management Corp. (JHMC) and NCIP Chairperson Zenaida Hamada-Pawid formed a task force on April 10 to validate the Certificates of Ancestral Land Titles (CALTs) inside the former American rest and recreation center, said Leandro Yangot, JHMC director.
Yangot said the BCDA had asked the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) to include ancestral land titles inside Camp John Hay among the Baguio CALTs the OSG had petitioned the courts for nullification, Yangot said.
The OSG is acting on behalf of the Baguio government, which contends that many of the CALTs issued inside government reservations were spuriously processed, city government records showed.
“But JHMC also promised to respect ancestral claims. So three members of JHMC and three members of the NCIP will review around 20 CALTs inside Camp John Hay. The titles that turn out to be genuine will not be challenged in court. The task force hopes to accomplish its job within the month,” said Yangot.
He heads the committee overseeing JHMC’s compliance to 19 conditions set in City Council Resolution No. 362, series of 1994, in return for the Baguio government’s endorsement of Camp John Hay’s privatization.
Condition No. 5 said ancestral claims covering portions of Camp John Hay “shall not be considered as closed and instead treated as pending, so that—from the time an ancestral law is passed by Congress implementing the provisions of the 1987 Constitution—the said claims should be decided by the appropriate administrative body or the courts and whoever are entitled to be compensated shall be given due and just compensation.”
In 1997, then President Fidel Ramos signed into law Republic Act No. 8371 (Indigenous Peoples Rights Act), which created NCIP to investigate, process and issue ancestral land titles.
The BCDA now owns Camp John Hay, as well as other former American-controlled military bases and reservations in the country.
Baguio’s only ancestral domain is also inside Camp John Hay, Yangot said.
The Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) for Barangay Happy Hallow, which covers 146 hectares, was issued in 2010, but its existence had become a legal issue for the BCDA because the community is one of the original 14 villages it promised to segregate, he said.
“We do not know if the BCDA and JHMC have already fulfilled part of our obligation with the CADT or whether government needs to nullify it so the BCDA can proceed with its segregation project,” Yangot said.—Vincent Cabreza
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