Council suspends moratorium on issuance of zoning exemption

The Baguio City Council has suspended the moratorium on the issuance of zoning exemption, nine months after the same was enacted in February 2021.

The ordinance temporarily lifting the said moratorium was approved on the third and final reading during the council’s regular session last Monday.

Authored by Councilor Fred Bagbagen, the recently approved ordinance shall suspend the restrictions imposed by Ordinance No. 32, Series of 2021 entitled Moratorium on the Issuance of Exceptions from Ordinance No. 63, Series of 2016 or (Baguio City Zoning Ordinance).

The council sought the suspension of the moratorium after a number of residents appealed to be exempted from the zoning ordinance so that they can process their building permit application.

According to the proposed ordinance, the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted the economy, causing the closure of businesses and the loss of thousands of jobs.

Bagbagen said there is a need to lift the moratorium to help the people who are in a survival mode amid the pandemic.

A public consultation was held on October 29, 2021 to hear out the sentiments of those affected by the said moratorium.

Joining Bagbagen during the public consultation were Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan, Councilors Joel Alangsab, Betty Lourdes Tabanda, Elaine Sembrano, City Planning and Development Coordinator Arch. Donna Tabangin, and City Administrator Engr. Bonifacio Dela Peña.

Tabangin reported that common exemptions being applied for from the zoning ordinance are boarding houses in low-density residential areas, commercial structures in residential zones, warehouses in residential zones, increase in building heights in all zones, usage of the entire lot area to build a structure, cellular towers in residential zones, motor and auto repair shops in residential zones, parking requirements, and PUJ/AUV stations in the central business district.

Agreeing with Bagbagen, Tabangin said certain zoning regulations may be bent for humanitarian consideration, but only to a certain extent where the environment and the integrity of urban planning are not compromised.

“Zoning is a balancing act. The city government wants to make sure that the citizens take part in making sure that a balance between our natural environment and urban development is created,” Tabangin underscored.

She appealed to the citizens to avoid succumbing to the “tragedy of the common” where collective greed kills the common good.

“Let us be the solution and not the problem. Let us all unite to eliminate all the chaos,” she exclaimed.

Meanwhile, dela Peña emphasized that certain requirements and conditions will still be in place once the moratorium is lifted. This means that all zoning applications will be subject to evaluation using existing zoning guidelines and that not all will be approved.

It was clarified that, if and when the moratorium gets temporarily lifted, applications for zoning exemptions that were previously denied might not be approved when refiled since the main tool to be used for evaluation is the current zoning ordinance. -Jordan G. Habbiling