July 16, 2024

The city council has requested the city’s Bids and Awards Committee to suspend the issuance of the notice award for the implementation of a road right-of-way (RROW) recovery project encompassing Tomas Claudio, Quidno Carantes, and Diego Silang streets to allow for the resolutions of issues raised over the nature of the area and safety concerns raised by building owners to be affected by the project.

The body has also asked the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to provide it with a plan and technical description of Silang, Carantes, and Claudio Streets within 15 days to allow the members to resolve the confusion whether the portions of the area along these streets are public land or not.

Owners of buildings along the Carantes and Diego Silang Streets where the city is set to implement the RROW project have appealed for assurance that the structural integrity of their structures will not be compromised.

Through a request from the office of Councilor Isabelo Cosalan Jr., chair of the city council committee on public works, the families of building owners represented by Rene Gosioco told the council during its June 10 session that they are not against the plan to recover RROWs for public use, but they fear it will affect the stability of their buildings which are located in a sloping terrain and would be weakened based on the project plan.

“Our concern stems from the structural integrity of our buildings, as we learned that the plan of the city is to go all the way up to the back walls of our buildings, which would leave its posts, tidings, and foundations exposed that could weaken our buildings and it may result to extensive damage and even grave danger to human life,” Gosioco said.

He said while they are willing cooperate with the city in any way they can, they feel their concern must be addressed, although they told that the backs of their buildings have somehow encroached on public land.

He added their buildings, which they inherited from their ancestors, were duly issued with permits in early 1950s based on the city’s conditions then and he believed building laws were followed.

Atty. Luz Balisong representing the City Buildings and Architecture Office, which was invited during the council session, said two of the buildings in the area, that of Gosioco and Ana Occidental, underwent renovation in 2003 and 2013 and were issued permit.

Gosioco’s permit was subject upon the approval of an application for the portion of the RROW. An application was filed with the DENR but this has to pass through the city government for issuance of a RROW clearance.

Balisong said up to this time there were no clearances provided nor there were updates given for the application for the parcel of land.

Gosioco’s permit has been revoked in Feb. 17, 2023 and no appeal on the revocation has been received.

For the building permit of Occidental et al., Balisong said the renovations were issued permit in 2013 which showed it was within their perimeter or boundary line. However upon inspection, Balisong said the structure has actually encroached upon the Carantes St. reason its building permit was revoked.

Gosioco said, “When those lands were purchased none of the titles contained technical descriptions. They only had land areas indicated. That means it probably would have been left to building contractors as to how to appropriate the land area. We know our forebears were upright citizens and they would not have engaged any under the table arrangements to favor themselves.”

He added the buildings were built even prior to the promulgation of the RROW law and their grandparents had applied for building permits and followed the same as it were approved. “We who are present here now are second and third generation heirs. Are we now being told that we are being held responsible for the mistakes of our fathers or the city dads then if indeed those are really mistakes?”

Cosalan asked if it is possible to do some amendments to the city’s plan just so it will be able to address the concerns of the building owners, such as the structural integrity of the foundations of the buildings.

Balisong said it has been mentioned the City Engineering Office will not touch on the structures that would affect the structural integrity, subject to future actions of the city.

The city, council through the suggestion of Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan, has tasked Cosalan to sit down with city building officials, the building owners and their counsels, and the City Legal Office to talk about what can be done for a win-win solution.

Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda however expressed concern on the matter of revocation of the business permits.

“I am struck by the statement that they revoked a building permit. Before you issue a building permit did you not inspect and make necessary review? Because they were issued a building permit, they constructed, then you will revoke the permit? What happens to the structure that they constructed if you revoke the building permit?” she said, adding in the case of deficiency, the National Building Code allows for the permitee to take remedial action to correct the same.

Councilor Mylen Yaranon also said with the revocation of the building permits, it would seem that the building owners have to take the burden because there is a new ruling of widening the streets.

Balisong said ideally the business permit is issued prior to the construction of a structure. In this case, the permitees followed the specifications under the law but in its implementation, they might not have followed the plans and specifications they have submitted.

Balisong added the violations of the permittees were also pointed out and they have been provided ample time to correct the deficiencies prior to the revocation.

She added the recovery RROWs is not a new ruling as these are supposed to be for public use and no structures should put up beyond the boundaries of building owners.

Gosioco said the reasons cited for their permits’ revocation are that their structures are built on RROW and that they misrepresented the truth in the application.

He stressed prior to the issuance their business permits, city authorities then were involved in the design of the renovation and assisted in its execution through personal visits and inspections.

“We are ready to say that no violation was actually made. We had the plans approved, engineers can inspect the property, and I’m sure we have followed,” Gosioco said.

Meantime, Balisong informed the councilors the CEO is just waiting for the issuance of the notice of award for the project, and suggested for the council to notify the BAC, after Cosalan asked for recommendations on how not to issue the notice yet while the city council addresses the building owners’ concerns.

She however warned the city has already been cited for non-implementation of projects by the Commission on Audit.

Olowan said, “It should not hurt the city if we suspend this for two to three weeks to allow us to have a conference and see what we can do.” – Hanna C. Lacsamana