LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – The provincial board expressed its strong opposition to the impending passage of Senate Bill (SB) 2169 that seeks to create a superbody known as the Greater Baguio-Benguet Development Authority (GBBDA) due to the failure of Congress to consult with the affected local governments aside from the fact that the proposed law undermines the local autonomy vested to the local governments by the Local Government Code of the Philippines.
The members of the local legislative body approved Resolution No.19-144 which stated that upon review of the board, the passage of the bill on second reading seems to have been railroaded because there was no prior genuine consultation conducted by the Senate with the different indigenous peoples and the local government units of Baguio and Benguet, as well as the other sectors to be governed by the proposed superbody that will be created, that virtually deprived the people of their right to be informed of government actions, programs, or policies affecting their general welfare and interests.
The resolution pointed out that SB 2169 contravenes pertinent provisions of Republic Act (RA) 7160 or the Local Government Code of the Philippines that grants local autonomy to local governments and RA 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) that provides for the recognition of the right of the indigenous peoples of Benguet and Baguio to self-determination and the recognition of their rights, specifically on their rights to their ancestral lands and domains as well as their right to a free prior informed consent (FPIC) in any form or kind of development.
On January 22, 2019, the Senate approved the recommendation of the Senate committee on government corporations and public enterprises chaired by Senator Richard Gordon submitting SB 2169 that seeks to create the GBBDA superbody as a substitute bill to SB 1692 authored by Senator Ralph Recto that proposes the creation of the Baguio-La Trinidad-Itogon-Sablan-Tuba-Tublay Development Authority (BLISTTDA).
The provisions of SB 1692 was culled from the provisions of House Bill 6974 authored by Baguio Rep. Mark Go and Benguet Rep. Ronald M. Cosalan proposing for the creation of the BLISTTDA which was described by many sectors in Baguio and Benguet as an added layer of bureaucracy with numerous amendments that lessened the powers of the proposed superbody.
Contrary to the promise of the Senate committee to work on the proposed amendments to the earlier BLISTTDA bill to conform with what the people in Baguio and Benguet want, the Senate committee instead substituted the bill with a much controversial one that caused an uproar among the involved local governments and the different sectors considering that SB 2169 will be scheduled for third reading by May 20, 2019 even without the benefit of proper consultations with the involved local officials and stakeholders.
Earlier, BLISTT local officials disagreed to many provisions of the proposed BLISTTDA bill that prompted them to come out with their recommendations that will be pursuant to the concept of the Metro Baguio growth area but the same suggestions were obviously set aside with the impending approval of SB 2169.
Under the proposed GBBDA law, the authority shall have jurisdiction over the delivery of basic services that transcend local political boundaries, affecting two or more cities and municipalities with the covered area such that it would not be viable for said services to be provided by an individual local government.
Further, the GBBDA shall also have the jurisdiction in the promotion and regulation of investments in the area pursuant to the provisions of the proposed law.
Further, the delivery of basic services and allocation of scarce resources for industrial, commercial and agricultural purposes in the covered area shall be managed on the basis of sound professional planning with long-term foresight of 50 years. For the said purpose, immediately within 180 days from the establishment of the authority, the Greater Baguio-Benguet Metropolitan Council shall commission experts, local or international, such as professional urban planners, engineers, architects, scientists, economists, development planners, environmental planners, managers, lawyers and other experts in the field of investments, tourism, agriculture, environment, housing, transportation, urban renewal and development and other related fields shall draft the master plan for the development of the covered area including the system for the delivery of basic services and zoning of areas for infrastructure and investment, taking into consideration existing land use and urban plans of component cities and municipalities; provided, that in case of any conflict between the existing land use and urban plans of the covered area, plans embodied in the master plan shall prevail.
In the exercise of its functions, the authority shall succeed in its corporate name, sue and to be sued in its corporate name, adopt, alter and use a corporate seal, adopt, amend or repeal its by-laws, enter into contracts to enable it to carry out its purposes and functions, acquire by, purchase, hold or lease such personal and real property as it may deem necessary in the transaction of its business or in relation to carrying out its purposes under the law and to lease, mortgage, sale, alienate or otherwise encumber, utilize, exploit or dispose any such personal or real property held by it, subject to individual or communal rights of private parties or of the government or any agency or enterprise.