Economics and Society 101: Notes on Baguio’s land problem


By ARTHUR BOQUIREN

I am thankful to the organizers of the Baguio Land Conference last August 28-29 for inviting me as one of their discussants. Fulfilling the role of a discussant allowed me to attend most of the land conference. The organizers of the land conference include the University of the Philippines-Baguio Cordillera Studies Center, Interfaith Gathering for Truth and Accountability, Tontongan ti Umili, Tebtebba Foundation and the Committee on Laws and Land of the Baguio City Council.

The presentations of Beverly Longid, Engr. Isabelo Cosalan Jr., Geraldine Cacho, Joanna Cariño, Kathleen Okubo, Roselle Came-Bahni, Dr. Julie Cabato, Judge Braulio Yaranon, Ignacio Pangket, Atty. Jose Molintas, Honor Sagmaya, City Councilor Richard Cariño, Windel Bolinget, and retired UP Professor Rowena Reyes-Boquiren were most enlightening.

On listening to the speakers and after reading the documents they have circulated, the personal insights that I acquired from them is that Baguio’s land problem has at least three fundamental facets (my formulation might have been affected by my own frameworks prior to the conference):
1. Deprivation of the indigenous peoples of Baguio of their right to land based on “native title”
2. Deprivation of the poor and middle classes of the right to a home
3. Environmental degradation

On the last point, one of the main speakers, Prof. Rowena Reyes-Boquiren describes the Baguio land problem as one that involves the issue of carrying capacity. For this writer, however, carrying capacity is variable across time but it is true that there is an over-concentration of population in Baguio. A lower concentration of population can result to a better quality of life.

During the conference, Prof. Reyes-Boquiren enlightened me that the roots of Baguio’s land problem can be found in the ongoing work of the elite to amass and consolidate properties. Thus, if we follow her thinking, the root of the land problem of Baguio, as elsewhere, is more than economic. The resolution of the problem requires the adoption of measures covering economic, political and other dimensions. At the same time, from my perspective, the solution to the problem requires the adoption of the following principles.

First, the land problem cannot be resolved outside of the fundamental address of the basic problems of society: land would remain un-affordable for many when poverty is not addressed.

Second, the land problem cannot be resolved by means that are purely economic or financial. The land problem requires a political solution. Solving the Baguio land problem would involve doing more than financial and economic calculations on the appropriate interest rate, amortization period and payment schemes for housing and land loans that can be implemented. Several government administrations have done these and have only failed to solve both homelessness and landless-ness among the poor and middle classes.

Third, the resolution of the land problem must simultaneously address development and equity issues. In particular, the solutions to the Baguio land problem must facilitate economic development and address intergenerational, social and spatial equity. The residents and rightful owners of Baguio may want just enough commercial and industrial centers dispersed in strategic locations in the city. Residents and rightful owners of Baguio City may also want that amount of commercial and industrial centers that are consistent with the volume of wastes that the city can handle at particular times.

Fourth, the resolution of the land problem must address or resolve legitimate claims from the perspective of full recognition of legitimate rights. Indigenous peoples (IPs) have rights to ancestral domain but the poor and middle classes also have rights to land and a home. Certain rights can be prior to other rights. Further, some of them have been victims of cheats. Somehow there should be a way to redress the exploitation they have suffered from unscrupulous land dealers. The state should also be held accountable for the cheats because in many instances the cheats used government offices. It is also possible that among indigenous peoples, there are competing claims to land.

Fifth, the resolution of the land problem requires dialogs among the IPs themselves and between the poor and the IPs, in which the latter not all belong to the poor. Among the IPs, there can be competing claims. Further, would IPs be willing to share land to the landless and the urban poor? Many of the urban poor are in a difficult situation: they do not have land and a home and yet they cannot invoke the rights to ancestral domain in the same way that IPs can.

Sixth, the resolution of the land problem requires dialog and a common front against poverty. IPs and the urban poor and middle classes share the same history of oppression and exploitation. The land problem that they experience today is a product of their common history of oppression and exploitation. This being the case, they owe it to themselves to cooperate in a common front for justice.

Seventh, the resolution of the land problem must simultaneously address environmental concerns. We cannot have only residences in Baguio. We need forests, watersheds, clean rivers, and biodiversity, particularly within the pockets of micro-forests and watersheds.

Eighth, we must address the concern of over-concentration of population in Baguio given that a better quality of life and environment can result from a dispersal of population.

Ninth, Baguio’s land problem should be addressed from the perspective of rights. IPs have rights to their ancestral domain but the urban poor and middle classes have rights to a home and land.

Tenth, Baguio’s land problem should be addressed from the perspective of dialog between IPs and the urban poor and middle classes. In particular, it must be addressed within their common front against poverty and exploitation/oppression.

At the heart of the matter is also this: suppose we focus only the rights of IPs to ancestral domain, what about the poor and middle classes? Do they not have rights to a home? How can we simultaneously address the rights of IPs, not all of whom belong to the poor, as well as address the rights of the poor and middle classes?

I anticipate that somewhere in this issue of Nordis, the principle of native title will be discussed and thus, the concept is not discussed here. At any rate, Joanna Cariño of The Heirs of Mateo Cariño and Bayosa Ortega Foundation can discuss the matter and she can be contacted at her home foundation. #

(The writer maintains a blog at http://www.geocities.com/arturoboquiren. Comments can be coursed through http://www.nordis.net, artboquiren2040@yahoo.com, and +63927-536-8431)

One Response to “Economics and Society 101: Notes on Baguio’s land problem”

  1. Chi from the Cool Clouds Says:

    Correction po: Coucilor Richard Carino did not attend the conference, although his name was in the list…

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