PMA pursues fencing project; snubs residents’ plea for segregation

BAGUIO CITY – Major Julesther Cañada, representative of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), said the academy will not stop its fencing project despite the plea of Ongasan residents for the segregation of the lot they are occupying.

Cañada said the construction of the perimeter fence is ongoing and will not be stopped unless there is a temporary restraining order issued by the court. However, he assured that the residential structures will not be enclosed pending the resolution of the land dispute.

The project is funded by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Department of National Defence (DND).

A fencing permit was issued by the chief engineer of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) who serves as the building official authorized by the DPWH to issue fencing and building permits for structures within military reservations in the country.

The PMA official disclosed that the academy will file a case against the residents to give them the chance to assert their claim in the court which, according to him, is the proper venue to settle the matter.

Councilor Fred Bagbagen, Chairperson of the Sanggunian’s Committee on Urban Planning, Lands, and Housing, concurred with the academy’s plan to file a case as this will “give the residents due process.”

Previously, Rey Calaycay, President of the Bontoc Organization of Purok Ongasan Inc. (BOPOLI), sought the assistance of the city council for the segregation of the lot they are occupying.

The lot in question is covered by Proclamation No. 2405, Series of 1985 which declared certain portions of land of the public domain situated in Fort Gregorio Del Pilar as a military reservation subject to private rights, if any there be.

The entire reservation covers an area of 3,731,399 square meters more or less whereas the residential lot covers an area of 29,631 square meters.

Cañada revealed that the land claimed by BOPOLI overlaps the land claimed by the Chakchakans.

Calaycay reiterated their stand that they are the actual occupants of the land and that their forefathers had settled there prior to the issuance of Proclamation No. 2405.

He asserted that the land they are occupying needs to be segregated from the operations of Proclamation No. 2405 so that they can proceed with the processing of their titles.

However, according to Cañada, for the said lot to be segregated, a certificate of no objection has to be issued by the DND. Unfortunately for the residents, the DND expressed its objection, rejecting all claimants’ requests for segregation.

“As per Section 88 of Commonwealth Act 141, reservations are non-alienable and are not subject to occupation, entry, sale, lease, or other disposition. This is a military reservation, and so it will be utilized as such,” he stressed.

Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan urged PMA to reconsider its position in behalf of the Ongasan residents.

Bagbagen argued that, in the spirit of fairness, the dwellers in the area being the first occupants should have been consulted first before the issuance of Proclamation No. 2405.

“If you’re asking for a statement of no objection from the DND, that should have been asked as well from the residents. I do not think they agreed to have their dwelling place proclaimed as a military reservation,” Bagbagen explained.

Councilor Arthur Allad-iw said the disregard of the residents’ prior rights is a form of “historical injustice.”

The city council referred the matter to the Sanggunian’s Committee on Urban Planning, Lands, and Housing for further study in aid of legislation.

The Ongasan residents have been seeking the help of the city government for the segregation of their lot. Several years back, they requested for the conduct of a segregation survey of the said parcel of land.

In 2017, the Pre-Proclamation Committee chaired by the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) favorably recommended the segregation of the lot and the issuance of a presidential proclamation covering the said lot for housing purposes.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources Cordillera Administrative Region (DENR-CAR) granted a survey authority for the conduct of a segregation survey over the area. Subsequently, a segregation plan for the said area was prepared and issued by the Land Management Services of the DENR-CAR.

In 2020, the city council passed a resolution approving the said segregation survey. –Jordan G. Habbiling