December 10, 2022

The city council discussed several issues raised by residents of Purok 2 North Sanitary Camp on the proposed expansion and rehabilitation of the city’s sewage treatment plant (STP).
City Environment and Parks Management Office Chief Rhenan Diwas said the upgrading or rehabilitation of the city’s STP will require the expansion of the area, affecting the residents living within the facility’s premises.
Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan and Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda advised Diwas to look into the claim of affected residents the lot they are occupying is a titled in the name of a private individual.
Diwas said the executive department is negotiating with the National Power Corporation for the purchase of the land where the city’s STP is located.
He said there are affected settlers within the NPC property, but he was unaware of the case of the other affected individuals claiming they are occupying a titled private property excluded from the NPC land.
He said records from the City Assessor’s Office did not mention a titled lot owned by a private individual within the expansion area.
Olowan and Tabanda said the identity of the lot in question should be studied thoroughly by the executive department to address land issues before carrying on with the project.
Mario Angnen, one of the affected residents, said they fear the expansion might lead to their dispossession and relocation.
The Luna Terra-ces located in Irisan, a socialized housing project, is being eyed as the relocation dwelling of the affected residents.
In a letter dated Aug. 12 addressed to Mayor Benjamin Magalong, the residents expressed their refusal to be relocated.
“We had introduced valuable and substantial improvements in the said area such as, but not limited to, clearing, construction of our residential houses with strong materials, and the construction of riprap in the river banks serving as flood control,” they wrote.
The residents claimed they had been paying the real property taxes of their residential houses since 1988 as an evidence of their possessory right.
They reiterated their appeal to the city government to help them acquire legal rights over the lot they are occupying.
Based on the joint profiling done by the City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB), 76 families and 16 individuals living alone will be affected by the proposed project.
North Sanitary Camp Punong Barangay Virgilio Orca said some affected residents agree with the proposed resettlement, but he appealed the housing cost should not burden the affected individuals.
The residents opposing the proposed relocation also questioned the intent of the survey undertaken by the ADB and CSWDO.
They said they participated in the survey since they were made to understand that the purpose was only to determine the social and economic impact of the project.
But they feared later on their participation in the survey would be understood as concurrence with the proposed compensation or resettlement.
Diwas clarified the results of the survey will dictate whether project alternatives will be undertaken or whether to proceed with the project.
According to ADB’s Planning and Implementation Good Practice Sourcebook, ADB mandates its clients/borrowers to conduct surveys or censuses to identify all persons to be displaced by the project and to assess the project’s socioeconomic impacts on these affected persons.
The social impact assessment is essential for the crafting of a resettlement plan that will ensure improved livelihoods and improved standards of living for all displaced persons.
The sourcebook stated ADB would not grant a loan to any applicant that is not compliant to its policies and objectives.
Diwas said there is no final and concrete plan yet for the implementation of the project and that everything accomplished so far is a preparatory measure.
In April, various meetings and consultations were conducted by the Tourism Infrastructure Enterprise Zone Authority (Tieza) for the preparation of the Preliminary Resettlement Action Plan for the affected residents within the expansion area.
During one of the meetings, a cut-off date for the entitlement of compensation by the project was also set.
The agreed cut-off date, which was April 22, would cover the completion of the surveys for the residents affected by the STP expansion.
Tieza is the national agency partner of the city government for the implementation of its sewerage projects.
A paying scheme has been arranged where Tieza shall obtain a loan from ADB on behalf of the city, then the city shall pay Tieza the loan.
Diwas said the purpose of the cut-off date is to determine the value of assets within the area for compensation.
He said the additional improvements built or introduced after the cut-off date would not be compensated.
In his letter to the city council, Magalong requested the legislative body to confirm/affirm the established cut-off date as required by Tieza.
The city council members, however, asserted they cannot act favorably on the request as the legislative body was not involved in the planning stage of the project, thus had no knowledge about it.
The city council referred the matter to the committee on laws, human rights, and justice for further study. – Jordan G. Habbiling