Senate body schedules another meeting on city charter

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The Senate committee on local government will meet with city officials and regional directors of concerned government agencies to thresh out the various issues that cropped up on the status of lands and watersheds in the city that will be heavily impacted by the proposed revision of the century-old Baguio city charter.

Senator Francis Tolentino, chairman of the Senate committee on local government, requested the presence of city officials led by Mayor Benjamin B. Magalong and decision makers from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the State-owned Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), John Hay Management Corporation (JHMC) among others, to discuss and agree among themselves how to harmonise conflicting provisions of the Senate and House versions of the bills that seek to revise the city charter.

Senator Tolentino presided over the meeting of the technical working group (TWG) of the Senate committee on local government held at the Baguio Country Club last Tuesday to resolve the conflicting provisions of House Bill (HB) 8882 and Senate Bill 2163 that seek to revise the century-old city charter.

The senator lauded the ongoing efforts of city officials to amend Baguio’s century-old charter for the benefit of future generations and to ensure that programs, projects and policies will conform to the present state of the country’s undisputed Summer Capital.

Tolentino claimed that the proposed revision of the city’s charter will definitely translate to better opportunities for growth and development in the future that will continue to place the city in the pedestal of well-developed cities in the country in the coming years.

HB 8882 was approved on third and final reading in the House of Representatives and was subsequently transmitted to the Senate prior to the adjournment of the second regular session of Congress last June 4, 2021, while SB 2163 is still pending with the Senate committee on local government.

According to him, the committee will try its best to reconcile the conflicting provisions of both bills and fine tune the same before submitting the committee report to the Senate committee on rules for the conduct of plenary debates once Congress will open its third regular session after President Rodrigo Duterte shall have delivered his sixth and final State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 26, 2021.

In 2013, the proposed revision of the Baguio City charter was passed by both chambers of Congress but the same was eventually vetoed by former President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III on grounds related to the prevailing land issues in the city where the same supposedly remains with the national government, among others.

One of the identified controversial provisions of the revised city charter is the existence of ancestral land claims of indigenous peoples that overlap with properties of the BCDA which is being questioned by NCIP to ensure that indigenous peoples will be able to enjoy the benefits of the lands that they own since time in memorial and pursuant to the pertinent provisions of Republic Act (RA) 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples rights Act (IPRA). By Dexter A. See

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