After nearly 3 decades, Capitol recovers portions of contested lots in Brgy Apas
CEBU CITY, Philippines – After a legal battle that spanned up to nearly three decades, the Cebu Provincial Government has finally reclaimed portions of military-occupied lots in Barangay Apas, Cebu City.
This after the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Central Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP-Centcom) formally turned over to the Capitol the titles of 16 lots located within Camp Lapulapu in a ceremony held last Monday, October 3.
These cover a total of 17.5 hectares of prime property, a report from Sugbo News, the province-ran media outlet, stated.
Present during Monday’s event included DND officer-in-charge, Sec. Jose Faustino Jr., AFP Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Bartolome Vicente Bacarro, AFP Viscom Commander Lt. Gen. Robert Dauz, Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, Vice Gov. Hilario Davide III, members of the Provincial Board, and mayors of localities here that host bases of the Philippine military.
The turnover ceremony capped the years-long land dispute between the Capitol and Centcom over an agreement that dates back as far as 1959.
“This issue has spanned decades and the administration of four presidents – from Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo when we first signed the memorandum of understanding, to Pres. Nonoy Aquino, and then to Pres. Rodrigo Duterte,” Garcia said during a speech.
“And finally, because I was able to speak to Pres. (Ferdinand) Marcos (Jr.) as regards this issue, finally we are seeing the light of a long and arduous, dark tunnel,” she added.
Faustino, for his part, welcomed the development as it also entails that the Capitol will be providing financial support for the construction of facilities and other important structures needed for Centcom’s relocation.
“Our eagerness to work with the provincial government is founded not only on respect, or for the rule of law, or compliance with the decision of the Supreme Court, but also on our fervent desire to cultivate the solid relationship for the benefit of everyone,” Faustino said.
In 1959, the Capitol donated 80 hectares of land in Barangay Apas to the Philippine military under one condition: these should be utilized for military purposes only.
Nearly 40 years later, provincial officials revoked the agreement after discovering that only 14 lots were used for the military’s operations.
The rest have been converted into residential sites to house military personnel and informal settlers, golf driving range, among others, the Capitol pointed out.
During Garcia’s first term in 2005, the Capitol filed an ejectment case against CentCom in order to retrieve the entire 80-hectare property.
The province also sought intervention from the Executive Branch in 2007, by entering into a Memorandum of Understanding with former Defense Sec. Gilberto Teodoro Jr.
With it, Centcom was expected to return the contested properties to the Capitol, with the latter tasked to fund construction of vital facilities and infrastructures for the military, and those of the DND.
But Centcom officials back then did not agree to the terms, and took the case to the court, resulting in a legal battle that only ended in 2019.
The Supreme Court, in a resolution in 2019, ruled in favor of the Capitol.
Centcom’s New HQ
Meanwhile, the provincial government can only recover the remaining 31 parcels of land from CentCom once their headquarter’s will be completely relocated to a ‘yet-to-be-identified’ area in northern Cebu.
Current Centcom officials, in the meantime, also assured the public that their operations and services will remain unhampered.
“To the Cebuanos and the rest of our fellow Filipinos in the Visayas region, rest assured that the Armed Forces of the Philippines through the Visayas Command shall remain as your reliable, credible, and highly capable partner in protecting the peace and facilitating development in your communities,” Bacarro said.
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