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Batangas LGU Set to Reclaim Disputed Ridge from Tagaytay

PropertyAccess Team |

Residents of Tagaytay Highlands, the Midlands, and the rest of the so-called "Tagaytay Ridge" might find themselves changing address soon. A Supreme Court decision on a case between the City Government of Tagaytay and the Tagaytay Taal Tourist Development Corporation in 2017 reopened an otherwise already dormant territorial dispute between Cavite and Batangas. 

Supreme Court ruling
While the Supreme Court handed down the decision in favor of Tagaytay Taal Tourist Development Corporation (TTTDC) just last year, the now 35-year old lawsuit stemmed from the company's supposed tax liabilities of PhP3,307,799, the amount the company allegedly owes to the city back in 1983. This resulted to the City Government of Tagaytay auctioning TTTDC's properties. The company appealed to the Court of Appeals to nullify the public auction and cancel the resulting deed of sale.

TTTDC claimed that the City Government of Tagaytay lacked jurisdiction as the area was supposedly part of the Municipality of Talisay in Batangas. The City Government retorted that the area was included in the city's charter when it first became a city in 1938. However, the Supreme Court ruling filed under G.R. No. 187543, s. 2017 determined that in the absence of a specific law transferring ownership of the disputed 101-hectare land, the land effectively still belongs to the Province of Batangas.

Batangas moves to reclaim
Last April 2017, Batangas Governor Hermilando Mandanas ordered the provincial surveyors to map the disputed land in preparation for the area's return to the province. The disputed property includes the Tagaytay Highlands and Midlands, People's Park in the Sky, and the Marcos-era People's Palace, which now houses the radar facilities of both the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP).

Historical background
According to Batangas historians, the confusion on ownership stemmed from a gentleman's agreement in the 1950s between Talisay Mayor Amando Laurel and Tagaytay Mayor Isaac Tolentino, where he deputized the later to arrest cattle rustlers from Cavite stealing cattle from farms in Talisay, Batangas. As both mayors eventually died, Batangas historians claimed that subsequent Tagaytay mayors misinterpreted the deputization agreement as an actual exercise of ownership over the area.

This territorial dispute between Cavite and Batangas, however, isn't new. Previously, the Municipality of Laurel in Batangas filed a case against the Municipality of Alfonso to reclaim a portion of the Taal Ridge illegally annexed by the later. Eventually, the ownership was reverted to Laurel, Batangas after a final decision was handed down by the Supreme Court.

Effects on real estate
According to sources in the local media, some landholders and business owners welcome the development as reverting ownership of the disputed area to a municipality will effectively lower real estate and business taxes. But this is not without opposition, especially among businesses that bank on the Tagaytay "brand" to market their goods and services, and those that have established a good working relationship with the City Government and have received legal concessions.

Nevertheless, Tagaytay businesses and real estate developments located across the disputed ridge like Ayala's Serin, SMDC's Wind Residences, Robinsons Land's Summit Ridge, Filinvest's Fora, and Cityland's Prime Residences will remain unaffected. While the City Government of Tagaytay is expected to file an appeal, the Provincial Government of Batangas is hopeful that they will be able to reclaim and exercise full jurisdiction over the disputed property by the end of this year.

* Primary information stated in this article was sourced from the Supreme Court ruling archived under G.R. No. 187543ABS-CBN, and The Weekly Frontpage, a Batangas City-based publication.