BAGUIO CITY – Tribal elders from the different parts of Baguio City and Benguet are now consolidating their efforts to empower residents to voice out their opposition to the impending passage on third and final reading of Senate Bill (SB) 2169 that seeks to create the Greater Baguio-Benguet Development Authority (GBBDA) that will eventually deprive the people of their rights over their properties among other evil motives of the measure that will disperse the population in the city.
Task Force Anti-SB 2169 was born through the initiative of Baguio congressional bet Rafael Wasan, indigenous peoples (IP) leader Sonny Bugnosen, former La Trinidad Mayor Edna C. Tabanda and Anderson Angway with the primordial purpose of informing and educating the people of Baguio and Benguet on the serious repercussions of the proposed law, especially on the rights of IPs over their ancestral domain and the local autonomy granted to local governments as enshrined under the provisions of Republic Act (RA) 7160 or the Local Code of the Philippines.
Wasan decided to give up his congressional bid because he saw that the welfare of the Baguio and Benguet people is in danger with the impending passage of the bill because the provisions of the measure stand to suit the interest of few capitalists who want to exploit our resources and leaving garbage to the ordinary people.
“We have to rise up to the occasion when our people will be in danger of being side lined by economic giants who want to lord it over our lands and resources. We will not allow the rights of our people to be simply trampled upon by the capitalists who want to do business in our midst,” Wasan stressed.
IP leader Sonny Bugnosen, son of former City Mayor Jaime R. Bugnosen, said that the issue now transcends politics because it is the rights of the Cordillerans which are at stake once the proposed law will be passed.
He narrated that based on his review of the bill, nothing in the provisions have reference to Republic Act (RA) 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) that is why it is worth opposing and with the help of the people of Baguio and Benguet, the bill should not be enacted into law because it could result to the worst case scenario in the city.
Angway claimed that despite the harassment that he had been experiencing over the past several days, he will continue to advocate for the rights of IPs and he will stand up against the passage of the bill considering its detrimental effect to the rights of IPs and their right to have the required free and prior informed consent process before the implementation of development projects in their domains.
The convenors of the task force called on interested groups and individuals who are against SB 2169 to get in touch with any of them so that they will be able to line up the staging of a series of rallies before Congress resumes its regular session on May 20, 2019 where SB 2169 is calendared for third and final reading in the Senate.
SB 2169 was a substitute bill to SB 1692 authored by Senator Ralph Recto that seeks to create the Baguio-La Trinidad-Itogon-Sablan-Tuba-Tublay Development Authority (BLISTTDA) where its provisions were from House Bill (HB) 6974 authored by Baguio Rep. Mark Go and Benguet Rep. Ronald M. Cosalan.
The convenors of the task force criticized the Senate committee on government corporations and public enterprises chaired by Senator Richard Gordon for failing to consider the suggestions and recommendations of the BLISTT local chief executives on the proposed bill which was even transmitted to the said committee wherein it was clearly stated that the BLISTTDA should not serve as an added layer of bureaucracy.
Despite the clear position of the BLISTT chief executives on the proposed bill, Senate Committee Report 557 was still submitted by the committee on second reading in the Senate floor on January 22, 2019 that resulted to its approval without considering the plight of the sectors on the supposed true functions of the authority.
The convenors claimed that the obvious railroading of the measure is really an indication that there are alleged evils in the intention of passing the bill wherein capitalists are evidently behind the same because of their interests over the rich resources of the Baguio and Benguet area coupled by its potentials for being a real estate haven with the rapid increase in high rise buildings whose owners were able to secure exemptions from the public works department on the building height limit with the assistance of some of the authors of the bill in the lower chamber of Congress.