September 25, 2023

The city council sought for further study on a request to authorize the mayor to apply with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for a permit to construct a diversion road along Leonard Wood.

This came following the concerns raised on the possible liability the members might face if they authorize a transaction without first addressing some of its questionable provisions.

The City Engineering Office has asked the council to pass a resolution that would authorize Mayor Benjamin Magalong to apply for a Gratuitous Special Use Permit (GSUP) with the DENR.

A GSUP is a five-year permit that allows a local government unit or a government entity to use portions of a forest land for the development of a project and infrastructure for public use.

The CEO is implementing a project along Leonard Wood Road that would require the construction of a diversion road, supposedly to address traffic congestion, among others, in the area.

Engr. Richard Lardizabal, who represented the CEO during the council session said the DENR is asking the city to apply for a GSUP, since the project is within the Forbes Park Reservation.

Things got complicated though when a question was raised on why the permit being worked out covers the construction of a diversion road, when the funds cover a different project title.

Councilor Michael Lawana pointed out the construction of a diversion road traversing the property where the jewelry shop, Pilak Silvercraft, is located is not part of the project covered by the P50 million approved by the city council in 2022.

Lawana said the project the city council approved for funding was the improvement of loading and unloading bay areas in various sites at St. Joseph Village and parts of Forbes Park, which are both traversed by Leonard Wood Road.

Lardizabal said the CEO is already implementing the project and has in fact established five loading and unloading bay areas along Leonard Wood as part of the P50M.

Lawana said there is a need to study the request, adding: “When the proposal was presented, it was clear that it is a loading and unloading bay area, not a diversion road or others.”

He said if there was a change in the project, it should have been referred to the council for fund realignment.

Councilors Isabelo Cosalan and Jose Molintas moved to give the authority for the mayor since the request was simply to apply for the GSUP.

Councilors Betty Lourdes Tabanda and Peter Fianza, however raised the possibility of the council being administratively charged for authorizing the use of a fund for a purpose other than what it was intended for.

They said while it is true that the request is only for an authority for the mayor to apply for a GSUP with the DENR, the project that will be implemented after the permit is issued involves the use of a fund that was allotted for another project.

“There is no question on the application for a special permit to use the area. The problem is, it will be the basis for the construction of a diversion road, which is not the subject of the fund that was appropriated,” Tabanda said.

The committee on laws was tasked to conduct a further study on the request, including what will happen to the development introduced by the city government after the special permit lapses in five years. – Jane B. Cadalig