City building official– amnesty encourages illegal structures

Around 400 students with disability from different schools in Baguio City join the annual Olympics for PWDs held at the Athletic Bowl on Thursday conducted by the City Government of Baguio through the City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO) and Persons with Disability Affairs Office (PDAO) in coordination with the different schools in the city catering to PWDs. ** Glenn Pat-ogan/CMO photos

BAGUIO CITY – In a dialogue with the City Council during the regular session on September 2, Engr. Nazita F. Bañez, City Building Officer, made it clear that she is not supportive of the measure to grant amnesty to applicants for electric and water connections as this is not in line with the City’s 15-point agenda. She claimed that granting amnesty to owners of structures without building permits “contributes to environmental degradation and tolerates illegal settling in the City.”
The council earlier invited Bañez to a forum to solicit her input regarding the council’s move to pass another ordinance that will grant amnesty to applicants for electric and water connections who are owners of buildings and structures without building permits.
Bañez claimed that the applicants who were issued Certificates of Electrical Inspection (CEI) by virtue of the 2016 Amnesty Ordinance have structures built on public lands that are “not fit for human habitation.” According to her, building structures on those areas will further worsen the sorry state of the City’s environment. She added that the amnesty runs counter to one of the 15-point agenda of the executive body which is revitalizing the environment.
“I just hope that whatever this body decides to come up with, it should not be in conflict with the executive body’s objectives for the revitalization of the environment,” Bañez reminded.
Bañez also raised concerns on the safety of people who illegally built houses on lands that are prone to landslides and accidents caused by falling trees.
The city building official explained that most of these people who were granted amnesty had built their dwellings without securing a building permit. She claimed that granting amnesty to applicants is tolerating and/or encouraging the construction of illegal structures.
“Many of these houses are within forest reservations and public lands which are protected areas,” Bañes lamented.
“Granting amnesty to applicants creates conflict in the function of my office. We demolish illegal structures, but here’s a law granting the request of illegal settlers for electric and water connections. We demolish and we tolerate,” Bañes continued.
The council, on the other hand, clarified that the Amnesty Ordinance was passed in response to the clamor of constituents who were not able to comply with requirements due to time constraint and financial limitations within the period of 3 years provided for by City Ordinance Numbered 15 Series of 2016. According to the council, the ordinance does not, in anyway, condone the construction of structures in violation of the National Building Code of the Philippines and other related laws. Section 3 of the ordinance states that “the City Buildings and Architecture Office and other concerned agencies shall not be prevented from demolishing said structures based on other lawful grounds.”
The council decided to defer the matter in order to study the proposed ordinance. Meanwhile, the City Buildings and Architecture Office (CBAO) was requested to submit data on all previous applications to be used in aid of legislation.
It will be recalled that, in 2013, the council passed an ordinance granting amnesty to owners of buildings and structures without building permits to have electric and water connections. In 2016, another ordinance was passed for the same purpose. Earlier this year, the council proposed an ordinance seeking to grant amnesty to qualified applicants for electric and water connections for a period of three months upon approval.
“Many qualified applicants for water and electric connections are clamoring for another amnesty period since their applications were overtaken by the six-month amnesty period (2016 Amnesty Ordinance) due to financial constraint and lengthy compliance with the other requirements,” the proposal states. ** Jordan G. Habbiling

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