Baguio fire department gets title over parts of Burnham Park
BAGUIO CITY—Another portion of Burnham Park has been titled, this time to the local fire department, the city council was informed on Monday.
The Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) was granted the Original Certificate of Title (OCT) No. 2023000055 by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources over a 1,257-square-meter lot in the park where it would relocate the Baguio fire station, according to BFP officials who attended the council’s regular session this week.
The latest park titling comes on the heels of the controversial land title, OCT No. 2023000017, which the city government acquired in March over 18.2 hectares of the park, including the popular man-made lake, to preserve them.
The city government had learned that almost half of Burnham Park was not covered by Proclamation No. 64 of 1925, which segregated the park designed by the late Chicago architect Daniel Burnham from the city townsite. As a townsite, Baguio lands that were not excluded through proclamation, laws, or court rulings and those that have not been sold are alienable and disposable.
The Baguio government is also securing a second title for sections of Burnham Park, to include the so-called Pine Trees of the World (a habitat planted with different species of pine tree) and the lot where the Lion’s Club put up a building, which are also outside Proclamation 64.
The section titled to the BFP lies near this portion of the park, which is “sandwiched by two national roads (Governor Pack Road and Kisad Road) and traversed by two creeks (emanating from the Burnham Park Athletic Bowl and Montinola Subdivision),” according to acting deputy city planning officer Elias Aoanan.
He told the council that the park was also technically public land.
The BFP underwent the correct process for acquiring lands and its title was reduced from the agency’s initial application for 3,443 sq m., Councilor Isabelo Cosalan Jr. told the Inquirer. Cosalan is an engineer and professional surveyor who helped complete Baguio’s cadastral surveys years ago.
According to the BFP’s lawyers, the agency has requested a P300-million fund to put up the BFP Cordillera office there, as well as the Baguio Fire Station, where it would move from its current headquarters between the City Hall and the public market.
The fire station would be replaced by a City Hall extension building, based on a 2019 Baguio redevelopment plan. BFP officials also transmitted to the council a July 7, 2022 affidavit issued by Mayor Benjamin Magalong, which stipulates that more than 3,000 sq. m. of park land sought by the BFP “was not included in the future development plans of the city of Baguio.”
Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda, a lawyer, urged the Baguio City Planning, Development and Sustainability Office to scrutinize the BFP development plans after Aoanan said its newly titled park land was classified as a “green belt” in the Baguio Comprehensive Land Use Plan.
Aoanan said the lot was also not identified for a fire station by the Baguio City Needs Identification Committee.
The lot, Tabanda pointed out, may not be in the most strategic location for emergencies because it is near a crossroad where heavy traffic builds up.
Councilor Jose Molintas also advised the BFP to secure clearance from the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (Tieza), which replaced the Philippine Tourism Authority that controlled all national parks.
Last month, City Administrator Bonifacio dela Peña said Baguio was now in the process of relinquishing ownership over 18.2 ha of Burnham Park to Tieza as a sign of good faith.