Loakan residents bemoan impending demolition

The residents of Loakan Proper turned to the City Council for help after individually receiving a notice of violation issued by the City Buildings and Architecture Office (CBAO).
The members of the Loakan Green Meadows Homeowners Association Inc. and other residents of Loakan Proper, during last Monday’s Regular Session, fretted over the possible dismantling of their houses situated within the buffer zone of the Loakan Airport. The residents requested for a dialogue with Mayor Benjamin Magalong through the assistance of the august body.
Earlier, the City Government of Baguio announced it will clear the airport of all obstructions in preparation for its reopening for commercial operations.
Also present during the forum was Engr. Stephen Capuyan, head of the CBAO Investigation and Demolition Division. Capuyan said the issuance of the violation notice was enforced pursuant to the Chief Executive’s call for an investigation on the buildings and houses erected within the buffer zone at the Loakan Airport.
Capuyan reiterated that the buffer zone measures 75 meters from the centerline on each side of the runway. Of the approximately 200 structures within the declared buffer zone, 150 had already been issued violation notices.
Capuyan, however, clarified that the violation notice was to merely inform the occupants that they violated Section 22 of the Environment Code of the City of Baguio/Ordinance 018-2016 (prohibition against erecting a structure on a safeguarded zone).
As a preliminary investigation, the CBAO mandated the residents to submit copies of their lot titles, building and occupancy permits, and other pertinent documents within seven days. The office also compelled the residents to submit a letter within seven days explaining why their structures should not be issued demolition orders. Capuyan said their office will coordinate with the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) to re-assess the cases of residents with sufficient documents. On the other hand, cases of occupants with no proof of ownership over the lots and their erected properties will be forwarded to the city’s Anti-Squatting and Anti-Illegal Structures Committee for appropriate action, Capuyan explained.
“We can’t just demolish these houses as these residents were able to obtain necessary permits,” Capuyan said. However, he mentioned the possibility of the revocation of the residents’ permits since their houses are within a protected area.
Several legislators questioned the CBAO’s issuance of building permits to the residents within the buffer zone. They asserted that the residents within the area should not have been issued building permits in the first place.
“The office that issued the applicants building permits is the very same office that tells them their houses are subject to demolition,” Councilor Betty Tabanda emphasized.
Capuyan said the onus is on the CAAP as “they are the ones issuing a certification or clearance.”
“Before our office issues a building permit, the CAAP will issue fist a certification or clearance because that’s their job,” Capuyan rectified. “So if an applicant shows us a clearance from the CAAP, then we have to issue them building permits.”
Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan reminded the CBAO to conduct first a series of meetings with the residents before issuing notices and directives to avoid causing panic among the residents.
Meanwhile, Councilors Mylen Victoria Yaranon and Benny Bomogao requested the CAAP to present the development plan of the Loakan Airport before the City Council. The said presentation was scheduled on February 24.
Responding to the residents’ request for a dialogue with the Chief Executive, the City Council decided to refer the matter to the Committee on Urban Planning, Lands, and Housing chaired by Councilor Fred Bagbagen for the provision of necessary assistance. **Jordan G. Habbiling

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