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Settlement of boundary dispute ordered

Tuesday, June 23, 2009 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES [ BusinessWorld Online ]

THE SUPREME Court has ordered Pateros and Makati City in Metro Manila to amicably settle disputed boundaries in some parts of Fort Bonifacio.

It also called on Congress to finally settle the real owner of Fort Bonifacio through legislation, the court noted.

In a 15-page decision penned by Associate Justice Antonio Eduardo B. Nachura, the court’s third division said the municipality of Pateros had brought its case to the wrong venue.

In 1993, Pateros filed with the Makati Regional Trial Court a judicial declaration of territorial boundaries, claiming its territory boundary was drastically reduced to only 166 hectares from 1,038 hectares following two proclamations that included Fort Bonifacio in the jurisdiction of Makati.

The then Fort William McKinley, comprised of barangays Cembo, South Cembo, West Rembo, East Rembo, Comembo, Pembo and Pitogo, was declared part of the then municipality of Makati under Proclamation 2475 issued by President Ferdinand E. Marcos on Jan. 7, 1986.

His successor, President Corazon C. Aquino, issued Proclamation 518 on Jan. 31, 1990 that reiterated the Marcos issuance.

The Makati regional trial court dismissed Pateros’ case on June 14, 1996 for lack of jurisdiction, and noted that Congress has the sole prerogative to modify boundaries. It added the presidential proclamations were not even declared unconstitutional.

Pateros haled the case to the Court of Appeals which was asked to compel the trial court to settle the matter. Pateros lost the case after the appellate court ruled that a boundary dispute — which is a question of law — should have been elevated to the Supreme Court.

But Pateros failed in its bid to recover Fort Bonifacio after the high court decided that the trial court does not have the authority to entertain boundary disputes.

The Local Government Code (LGC) of 1991 provides that "boundary disputes involving a component city or municipality on the one hand and a highly urbanized city on the other, or two or more highly urbanized cities, shall be jointly referred for settlement to the respective sangguniang panlalawigan (legislative councils) of the parties."

The law has been in effect when Pateros raised the issue.

"This has become imperative because, after all, no attempt had been made earlier to settle the dispute amicably under the aegis of the LGC," the high court noted.

The jurisdiction of the trial court is only considered after failure of an amicable settlement as provided under the LGC, it said.

"Corollarily, we feel obliged to inform Congress of the need to pass a law specifically delineating the metes and bounds of the disputing LGUs," the high court said.

Fort Bonifacio is also being claimed by neighboring Taguig City. — IPP


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