DAVAO CITY – Long-time farmers living in the University of the Philippines Mindanao campus now face total eviction with the imminent construction of an P8-billion sports complex in their area.

Alfredo Logronio, a representative of the Bago Oshiro Farmer’s Association living in sitio 117, in his appearance before the regular session of the City Council last Tuesday, said, “UP has yet to make a formal offer and give us alternative livelihood.”

Their families have been in the area since 1936.

Davao City Mayor Duterte threatened that he will personally oversee the demolition of residential houses if occupants will not “give way” to the construction of the sports complex.

Duterte, in his Sunday television program, said residents “squats” and have no “claim” over the area.

“I told you before, when it (lot) is needed for a public purpose, which we need, you have to give way, I already told you that. I will go against you (sasagasaan ko kayo), I will personally oversee the demolition,” he said.

Duterte said that Third District Congressman Isidro Ungab has already secured P50 million for the sports complex project but also said the initial construction budget costs P200 million, as part of an estimated 8-billion peso project.

Duterte said he would order the City Engineer’s Office to check for the residents’ building permits.

“I can demolish it as the Mayor, if you do not have a permit, I will demolish your house,” he said.

He said he will use his administrative power, “something I have never done before”, because “our children need it, UP needs it, the people of Davao City, especially students, need it.”

“So get out. Do not play with me about sentiments, get out because it’s government property,” said Duterte.

Justified claim

The sports complex is a joint project between the city government and the University of the Philippines Mindanao campus to be built inside the university’s 20-hectare lot in Mintal.

Former President Fidel V. Ramos issued Presidential Proclamation 822 in 1996, which reserved the 2,044,312 square-meter BPI Land Reservation in Bago Oshiro, Tugbok District for the use of UP.

Logronio said their forebears worked for Ohtah Development Company, a Japanese plantation who also left the area after the Second World War.

“In 1941, when the Japanese hacienderos (landlords) left, our ancestors tilled the land. There is a living witness, now over 100 years old, who can testify,” said Logronio.

He said their predicament began in 1952 when the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) took over the land.

Logronio said that in the same period, the City government told them to vacate the area and that a relocation would be provided for them in Davao del Norte and Agusan del Sur provinces. They were also told that they would be compensated.

“While the relocation was supposed to be prepared for us, our families worked for the BPI but in 1960, the relocation did not materialize as there was a mass lay-off when the BPI’s budget was cut,” he said.

Logronio said the residents returned to farming and they were again forced by the government to leave until a banana company leased the land and gave them work.

However, the banana company pulled-out and transferred to Davao del Norte after two years and left them jobless again.

“In 1971, BPI filed a case of forcible entry against us who were then farming inside the area,” he said.

The case was purportedly dismissed in 1975.

Logronio claimed that in 1982, a transmittal survey for individual occupancy was done while in 1993, a subdivision plan was approved.

“That became our basis for sales patent application,” he said.

Logronio said upon Pres. Ramos’ declaration of UP reservation,  “that was when our mental and emotional torture began.”

“PP 882 buried our rights,” he said.

During Estrada’s time, Logronio’s group submitted a petition for the amendment of PP 882.

The Commission of Settlement of Land Problems ruled, “actual occupants should be transferred and relocated to any suitable portion of land with the commitment that any development will be compensated according to law.”

Where to go?

Logronio scoffed at UP which has not made an offer to them or discussed alternative to their livelihood once they would be dislocated from the area.

During the council session, it was said that about 32 families live in the area but Logronio said that a survey must be conducted again.

In the council session, several councilors expressed apprehension about the sports complex, especially on how UP would relocate the residents.

A technical working group on the project led by UP legal counsel Edwin Mendoza and City Planning and Development Officer Marcelino Escalada want the nod of the City Council on a Memorandum of Understanding of both parties.

The Memorandum of Understanding would “formalize the relationship” and later a Memorandum of Agreement would be created which, according to Mendoza, would discuss details of the project including the relocation of the residents and other “operational details.”

Third District Councilor Victorio Advincula, Jr., said, “UP, I believe, don’t have the capacity to demolish and relocate the occupants, so it would be the city which would be obliged to that as a party to the MOA later on.”

Escalada said they are looking at two models of relocation.

First, the city will provide the relocation and second, that UP will “further study the possibility to relocate the 32 settlers onsite.”

Advincula said that the first MOA already said, “UP will relocate people.”

“The key here is to have an agreement and find ways to pay them,” he said.

Escalada said he already went thrice to have “consultations with residents.”

“We came up with a certain understanding, out of 200, only 20 have been cited. Some 80 families will be relocated in 20 to 32 hectares,” Escalada said.

Mayor Duterte said he is “sounding off the residents now, any day” for the demolition as he is only waiting for the projects’ Special Allotment Release Order (SARO).

“If the engineers will say that they are ready with the equipment to pave the way for the arterial approaches, you go. You do not go, I destroy you. You want me in jail, fine. Go to court,” he said.

New agreement

First District Councilor Bonifacio Militar, was among those who raised questions as he said the City already signed a MOA, represented by Duterte and the UP which was represented by its president, Emilio Q. Javier.

Bonifacio said a City Ordinance, Council resolutions and an executive order also support the same MOA.

Mendoza said he thinks the “MOA has not acquired binding authority, has not acquired stamp of approval of SP (Sangguniang Panlungsod) and the BOR (UP Board of Regents).”

Meanwhile, Escalada said that at the time of their research for the MOU, “there is no realization that there is an existing MOA so we resulted in coming up with a MOU.”

Escalada said they now consider two strategies.

The first is that the new MOA, “should spellout existing MOA and new agreements (approved) by the City Council, the conditions in the previous MOA and the new developments in the city.”

Escalada said the new MOA might include that “UP provides settlers’ relocation, pay compensation accordingly or whatever proceeds in accordance with the law.”

Vice-Mayor Paolo Duterte, meanwhile, asked that while P200 million is the current budget for the sports complex, the whole project costs P8 billion.

First District Councilor Bernard Al-ag, rules and privileges committee chair, said that UP will ask the city for a counterpart of P100 million while the remaining amount will be “requested regularly from the national government” over a period of 10 to 15 years.  (davaotoday.com)

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