We don’t own the land, the land owns us. The land is my mother, my mother is the land. Land is the starting point to where it all began. It’s like picking up a piece of dirt and saying this is where I started and this is where I’ll go. The land is our food, our culture, our spirit and identity.Bob Randall
Recently, the community of Sagada was once again rocked by a couple of controversial and divisive issues, which concerns an alleged coffee shop/ cottage currently being built at Bokong Falls and the alleged 100 hectares to be sold to the Ayala group of companies. These are on top of the land woes here including the alleged property of an actor here.
This kind of issue has long been ailing Sagada wherein it raises concerns regarding Sagada’s land-use plan, zoning policies, implementation of the National Building Code, land ownership (this time its current relations to bodies of water), selling and leasing of lands to outsiders, etc.
Unbeknownst to most of us, including myself, there are laws governing the construction of buildings and other forms of structures, such as this National Building Code or RA 6541. One of its provisions is the most talked about “building permit”.
SECTION 1.02.03: Building permits
(a) Any person, firm, or corporation, including any department, office, bureau, agency of instrumentality of the government intending to construct, alter, repair, move, convert or demolish any building or structure, or cause the same to be done, shall obtain a building permit from the Building Official for whichever of such work is proposed to be undertaken for the building or structure, before any such work is started.
One argument says that the construction should be continued despite the violation of laws as the owner or builder has already incurred some expenses.
That is why a building permit is important, as it will save the property owner/developer to incur further expenses. The permit will only be issued once all legal requirements and local regulations are met. Mabalin ay masilip nu ma scrutinize nan structure before proceeding with the construction, it has to be checked if it is safe, there is uniformity in the design, and if it is compliant with the laws or ordinances. We also have to know if it is in a critical site, a protected area, the land classification, etc.
Given that building code is not fully implemented in Sagada and despite the absence of a building permit, we simply have to understand that even if we own a piece of land, we cannot do whatever we want with it, even worse when we act as dummies for moneyed outsiders, posing as owners but had their land sold or leased in secret to people who would like to cash in or benefit from Sagada.
Other than the National Building Code and the building permit, we also have P.D. 1067 that applies to lands where bodies of water are located, just like in this case with the property right beside Bokong Falls.
One can maintain his or her right to ownership of the land, which comprises the bank or shore, however…
Article 51: The banks of rivers and streams and the shores of the seas and lakes throughout their entire length and within a zone of three (3) meters in urban areas, twenty (20) meters in agricultural areas and forty (40) meters in forest areas, along their margins are subject to the easement of public use in the interest of recreation, navigation, floatage, fishing, and salvage. No person shall be allowed to stay in this zone longer than what is necessary for recreation, navigation, floatage, fishing or salvage or to build structures of any kind.
Keep this in mind in the event that you plan to develop or alter the area near the bank or the shore, it is quite unfortunate that IT WOULD TURN INTO NOTHING BUT A WASTED EXPENSE SHOULD IT LATER BE SUBJECT TO PUBLIC EASEMENTS.
This is what Boracay and Palawan experienced. The business owners could not do anything but just watch their establishments demolished for violating coastal easement.
Or take the case of Baguio…
CBAO’s architect Stephen Capuyan who heads the team on the protection of rivers, waterways and sewer lines said a total of 274 structures had been identified and validated in nine barangays from North Sanitary Camp to Imelda Village traversed by the Sagudin-Balili River.
Their owners had been served their second notices to give them time to voluntarily remove their structures.
Capuyan said that if they refuse to self-demolish, investigation reports will be submitted for the issuance of the notices of demolition en route to the issuance of demolition orders.https://northphiltimes.blogspot.com/2019/12/20000-structures-in-baguio-waterways-up.html?fbclid=IwAR3kZrriU2o809V_1TNVaRiqrnNt3ioiSvdsgg_x-PzKl6UVDV3TpenzIrg
CUSTOMARY AND NATIONAL LAWS
Maybe it is high time for Sagada to review the implementation of the National Building Code and the rules on leasing properties kung wada, nu maid, now is the time to create an ordinance on this, mabalin ay itapi nan anti-dummy ordinance gedan. There is this existing state law the anti-dummy law. Better if this can be localised as an ordinance.
Moreover, I am sorry to say this but I find it problematic and it reeks of selfishness, as well as childish when we say that just because the land is ours, we can do whatever we want with it or agtan yu sha is daga nu lote (give him or her land) or agtan yu sha is siping (give him or her money), if you do not want them to build on or sell or lease their land.
It takes two to tango. You got moneyed and opportunistic outsiders and some locals willing to give up their lands to outsiders in a heartbeat.
And so I think part of the problem lies on selling or leasing lands to outsiders not because of immediate need but primarily because it is easy money?
Once and for all, may we craft rules, regulations, and ordinances to cement that and to address other land woes here. Because while it is unwritten despite its wisdom, people undermine it. And for us not to be just reactive every time a similar problem arises. WE HAVE TO BE PROACTIVE.
We have to remember that the rules and values of Sagada have long been egalitarian and considerate of other people, the environment, etc. and not kanya-kanya or to each his own.
Therefore it is of equal importance that in things that we do like constructing buildings, houses, and what-not, we have to consider a lot of things first like its impacts on people, the environment, the community among others and we have to follow rules that are set to regulate things.
So why do we need to regulate?
That is to ensure the sustainability of resources and livelihood and for an essential degree of order to persist even in the midst of explosive growth and to maintain a good quality of life for all and not just for a few.
IN THE ABSENCE OF A LOCAL OR MUNICIPAL BUILDING CODE
Correct me if I’m wrong, the absence of a local or municipal building code would allow the National Building Code to automatically take into effect.
I could not find anywhere in the National Building Code a provision stating that a municipal building code is required first for this national code to be implemented.
SECTION 1.01.04: Application
(b) This Code shall apply to chartered cities, poblaciones of municipalities and municipal districts with a population of at least two thousand (2,000) inhabitants, and to barrios of urban areas with a population of at least two thousand (2,000) inhabitants. This Code shall also apply to any area where there are fifty (50) or more families per hectare.
SECTION 1.01.10: Municipal and Provincial Ordinances and Regulations
(a) Local ordinances should conform to the Code and suppletory requirements hereto shall in no case diminish minimum requirements embodied in this Code. The Secretary of Public Works and Communications or, in the proper case, the Secretary of Justice shall take any and all appropriate steps in cases where local ordinances conflict with the Code.
SECTION 1.01.14: Effectivity
(a) This Code shall take effect upon its approval within the Greater Manila Metropolitan Area and in other areas where there are already existing local building codes, and four (4) years thereafter, in all other areas in the Philippines: Provided, however, That this provision shall not prevent any city or municipal council or board from adopting this Code immediately upon its approval.
ADI TAKO BOKODAN NAN GAWIS
Yes, but it is a different story when we keep on sharing but bereft of inter-generational thinking how it will impact the next generations of iSagada and if there will still be some of that goodness left for them.
Sagada has an age-old unwritten rule of preventing the locals from selling their lands or having them leased to outsiders or of fending off outsiders to do business in Sagada. And there is wisdom in this, something that the forebears of Sagada must have foreseen ages ago and all they wanted was to keep what duly belongs to the people of Sagada and its future generations.
Think about Boracay, which is now overflowing with foreign investors, displacing indigenous people who are the original inhabitants of the island. Now, these people have to fight tooth and nail to the point of risking their lives just to claim what is rightfully theirs.
I am sorry to say that some of the newly proposed ordinances posted somewhere here are somehow cosmetic solutions to what has long been plaguing Sagada, from mass tourism to unabated development.
While it is good that these areas are going to be declared heritage sites, without the will to impose rules and regulations to protect and enforce their value as heritage sites, its declaration bears no significance at all. And I agree, why turn a sacred a site into a tourism park? What does a sacred site or heritage site mean to us?
Bokong Waterfalls is included in the list that is supposed to be declared as a heritage albeit its significance in the community long before its proposed declaration. But how can it be a heritage site or a protected area when it is bereft of a buffer zone as shown by this business establishment currently being constructed?
This ongoing construction basically defiles the purpose of the declaration. So why propose it while we allow the construction to continue?
Whether a structure is a business or residence, heritage sites and protected areas are ought to be protected by buffer zones among others.
ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS ON THE RECENTLY CONCLUDED PUBLIC HEARING
The issue regarding Bokong was not discussed thoroughly. As to how I understood, it was referred to the technical working group of the Sangguniang Bayan in charge of the crafting of the ordinances discussed today.
If I were to suggest, this warrants a separate public hearing then. The community should not be kept in the dark neither should they be mum about this.
Here’s what I have gathered though. The land where this alleged coffee shop currently being built is not sold either leased. It is claimed to be a cottage and not a coffee shop and a partnership between two parties. Though the question of whether one party is a non-local or a foreigner remains unanswered. These are all unconfirmed, so may our local government look into these?
I have a question to ask the Sagada community, what do you want to happen and what do you plan to do now?
I wanted to suggest that while we are at this and still bereft of guidelines and ordinances concerning the protection of natural heritage sites, can the construction of that cottage/coffee house be stopped while the community sort things out?
A suggestion was made before to put a moratorium on the construction of tourism business-related structures in Sagada while Sagada is working on its land-use plan zoning policies, and cultural map, and carrying capacity among others in a talk about Sagada and heritage conservation.
Some time in October Baguio came out with a proposal for a one-year moratorium on building construction.
The same suggestion was also made for the Mission Compound while it lacks a development plan.
I hope that those suggestions won’t fall on deaf ears.
Other than that, please look into the National Building Code, building permit, zoning policies, the Water Code, easements, etc. As far as I know, we have the CLUP (Comprehensive Land Use Plan) but bereft of zoning policies, that are supposed to be an implementing tool of the CLUP.
Indeed the law should be fair and it should not be selective.
Localisation of the national laws is highly encouraged. And that there should be a union of the national laws and indigenous laws and customary practices, where things meet halfway and co-exist.
But given those cases wherein despite the questions raised and the resistance from some members of the community, projects pushed through, and structures were built, and questionable businesses continue to operate, it should not dictate us to stop and allow this kind of monstrosity and abomination to take place and allow us to make the same mistake again.
ONCE IS ENOUGH, TWICE IS TOO MUCH, AND THIRD IS A POISON… OR SOMETHING ELSE…