Baguio City vows to protect ‘safeguarded landscapes’

BAGUIO CITY — The City Building and Architects Office (CBAO) has committed to implement the provisions of the environment code on “safeguarded landscapes.”

Engineer Nazita Bañez, during the Baguio Re-greening Movement’s (BRM) weekly forum on Thursday, said there are encroachments on “safeguarded landscapes,” especially in watersheds, parks and roads, in the past years.

“Buyog watershed and Busol watersheds have been encroached by inhabitants. There were titles issued on Wright Park, Kennon road and Forbes Park,” she said.

She urged the city government to provide the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) with maps that identify the areas covered by the “safeguarded landscapes,” as defined by the city’s environment code passed in June 2016 to guide the department when issuing permits required in the titling of lands.

Under Ordinance No. 18 series of 2016, the city’s safeguarded landscapes include Burnham Park reservation, Diplomat Heritage Hill, Wright Park, Mines View Park, Botanical Garden and other similar parks, squares and or promenade areas.

It also provides that the “landscapes” shall encompass the skyline of the city where landmarks are located and/or where pine trees are present, including the improvements introduced along natural water recharge systems like rivers, creeks, gulleys, inland waterways and others.

The skyline of Baguio must be protected due to their historical importance based on the intended design of Architect Daniel Burnham, who designed the city, it said.

The code provides for non-obstruction of straightline views from Baguio City Hall to Convention Center; Luneta Hill to Brent School; Cathedral to Maharlika Center; Luneta Hill to Cathedral; Cathedral to Teachers Camp; Diplomat Hill to Luneta Hill; City Hall to Diplomat Hill; Mines View to horizon; Maharlika Center to City Hall; Quirino highway to Lourdes Grotto; all surrounding ridge lines with pine forest cover as viewed from Burnham Park; all surrounding ridgelines with pine forest cover as viewed from Mansion house and others which may be identified by the safeguarded land identification, protection and management of landscapes committee.

Bañez said that since there have been encroachments in the past in some of the identified landscapes, their only recourse now is to stop the encroachments by preventing the construction of new structures and confiscating the materials, which is allowed under the environment code.

The engineer also talked about the “view cone restrictions,” which could be used to limit the number of storeys a structure can have it if obstructs the cone view of a particular “safeguarded landscape.”

The city recently passed its zoning ordinance, which increased the height limit of buildings from six storeys to eight stories. “We will strictly enforce this. Building permits are issued by our office and we will make sure that the provisions of the environment code will be implemented,” Bañez said.

BRM chairman Atty. Erdolfo Balajadia said “let us account for all of these violators” and let them know that they can never own the land.

“Informing them will deter others from violating the laws,” he added.

The city’s environment code provides a penalty of PHP5,000, which can be increased by at least 10 percent every three years and imprisonment of up to six months. Liza Agoot/