More public consultations on revised Baguio charter sought

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BAGUIO CITY – Some city officials and concerned sectors are calling on the Senate committee on local government to conduct more public consultations on the pending bills that seek to amend the century-old Baguio City charter to ensure that the plight of the city’s constituency is reflected in the final version, and not just the interests of a few elite.

Some city officials who attended the meeting spearheaded by the Senate committee on local government technical working group last Tuesday expressed disappointment on the shallow contents of the proposed legislation, saying that most of the time was spent to deliberations on the creation of offices and plantilla positions for city officials that were evidently copied from the provisions of Republic Act (RA) 7160 or the Local Government Code of the Philippines, and other related laws.

Further, observers also raised the issue on public consultations that should have been conducted even prior to the filing of the said local bills in both chambers of Congress.

Sources, who observed the conduct of the Senate TWG meeting, questioned the failure of the authors of the proposed bill to include the proposed settlement of the boundary dispute between Tuba and Baguio City for the determination of the actual land area of both localities to avoid undergoing the stringent litigation process once the same will be referred to the court.

According to them, the issue on ancestral domain of the indigenous peoples and the status of lands in the city cannot be taken in a single meeting as the failure of the proposed bills to effectively and efficiently address these will cause the fine-tuned measure to be vetoed by President Rodrigo Duterte, similar to what happened in 2013 where the proposed law revising the city charter was vetoed by President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III.

The sources claimed that in the conduct of more public consultations to study the provisions of the proposed bills, representatives of concerned sectors in the city should be invited to air their insights on the matter and not just confine the participants to government officials who may be pushing for their own political and personal agenda.

House Bill 8882 which seeks to revise the city charter was approved on third and final reading by the House of Representatives and was transmitted to the Senate for the passage of its counterpart bill, Senate Bill 2163, which is now pending evaluation and assessment by the Senate committee on local government chaired by Senator Francis Tolentino.

The concerned city officials and sectoral representatives remain optimistic that Senator Tolentino will heed the clamor from residents for the said bills to be subjected to the conduct of more consultations as there are loopholes in the pending measures and prevent further problems of the city instead of solving its existing issues and concerns beneficial to the greater interest of the majority of the constituents. By HENT

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