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Ilocos Norte board files complaint vs Apayao mayor over territorial dispute

LAOAG CITY, Ilocos Norte – Residents in a remote sitio Bucarot located about 10 kilometers from Adams town proper are threatened of a possible loss of livelihood and property should they refuse to vacate their houses in 60 days starting March 1 or until the end of this month.

This is what board member Atty. Vicentito Lazo discovered when he visited about 30 households living in sitio Bucarot, which is also being claimed by the neighboring municipality of Calanasan, Apayao.

Over the past 16 years, residents of sitio Bucarot located in the remotest sitio of Adams town are confused over the long-standing territorial feud that have reignited in recent years with the opening of roads connecting to Tanglagan village of Calanasan town including the recent construction of a police outpost here.

“Politically, it’s not sound because there are only 60 voters in the area but we are talking about our jurisdiction and territorial integrity here,” Lazo said.

He cited that Sitio Bucarot from Adams town proper is only accessible by foot or by a single motorcycle as vehicles could hardly pass through the dirt road and a narrow wooden bridge with minimum holding capacity.

On Tuesday, Inspector Clemente Ceralde, acting police chief of Adams confirmed in a police blotter that a resident of sitio Bucarot identified as Arnel Abian, 36, reported to the PNP that Calansan mayor Elias Bulut Sr. of Apayao has warned several residents in the area to demolish their houses should they insist that they are part of Adams and not of Calanasan.

In view of this, a provincial resolution of protest and condemnation against the acts of the local chief executive of Calanasan town, sponsored by lawyer provincial board member Da Vinci Crisostomo was passed at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan session hall on Monday.

“I am somewhat worried. This problem has cropped up long before. This must be a great concern of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan as they may presume we have not done anything about it. It’s time we take this seriously,” Crisostomo said as the reported move of the Calanasan mayor threatening people in the area is a clear sign of “abuse of authority.”

As of press time, the Calanasan mayor has yet to be reach out for comment. A placard visibly seen in sitio Bucarot however states, “We are here not to govern and rule. Not to lead and serve but to help and share our love and care.” Below the statement is the name of the Calanasan mayor.

Also, board member Lazo drafted a resolution on Monday calling for a joint session between the province of Apayao and Ilocos Norte to thresh out issues about the boundary dispute.

As a general procedure, Lazo said that based on Section 118 under paragraphs C and E of the Local Government Code, a boundary dispute involving two provinces must be endorsed to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of the contesting municipalities for amicable settlement. Should there be no amicable settlement within 60 days from the date of filing, then the aggrieve party may file a case at the judiciary.

In a separate interview with Calanasan vice mayor Martin Laoat aired over Sky Cable in Laoag City, he reiterated that the Calansan government has no interest in Sitio Bucarot. “If it is owned by Ilocos Norte, so be it. You should come and visit here to know what is happening,” Laoat said in a live interview.

Based on a civil complaint earlier filed by the municipality of Adams against Calansan, it may be recalled that then Calansan mayor initiated the appointment of separate officials of Sitio Bucarot in 1998. Then in 2002, then Calanasan mayor now Congresswoman Eleanor Bulut-Begtang reappointed officials in the area, giving them at least P500 honoraria and P200 travel allowance when attending meetings at the Calansan town proper.

From 2002 to 2005, various infrastructure projects were introduced by the Calanasan government which included a Day Care center and a primary school, irrigation canal, spring development, multi-purpose pavement and now with a road opening to Tanglagan village including construction of a police outpost manned by the Calanasan PNP.

Household surveys were also conducted giving specific numbers to houses there from 2005 to 2006 which prompted then Adams mayor Wilma Dupagen-Daquioag to file a civil suit on March 2007 but it was later on dismissed by the court due to lack of jurisdiction over a boundary dispute.

A pending appeal however has yet to be resolved at the Court of Appeals.

According to Lazo, the SP resolution calling for a joint session with the Apayao provincial board is meant to thresh out issues concerning the boundary dispute.

“If they will not act on it or if they will ignore it, then we have enough reason to bring the case in court,” Lazo said.(PNA)