Who will spend for relocation site: City Hall or UP Cebu?

By: Victor Anthony V. Silva and Juli Ann M. Sibi January 05,2016 - 03:09 AM
Suspended Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama (left) with Collin Rosell visits the fire scene in sitio Avocado and assures informal settlers they can go back to occupy the UP lot. (CDN PHOTO/JUNJIE MENDOZA)

Suspended Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama (left) with Collin Rosell visits the fire scene in sitio Avocado and assures informal settlers they can go back to occupy the UP lot. (CDN PHOTO/JUNJIE MENDOZA)

TWO hectares of land in Nivel Hills are available for a relocation site of Lahug fire victims but who will spend to develop it with home lots, roads and other services?

City Hall insists the fire site’s land owner, the University of the Philippines in Cebu should pay for this.

The state-run school says City Hall has the duty and budget to relocate informal settlers, and to “respect” the school’s property rights.

No settlement was reached over this or the use of the fire-razed lot in sitio Avocado, Lahug during yesterday’s meeting at the Capitol with representatives of the Cebu city government and the UP Cebu.

Provincial Administrator Mark Tolentino mediated in the afternoon closed-door dialog that lasted more than two hours.

Cebu City was represented by Councilor Joel Garganera, lawyer Colin Rosell of the Cebu City Division for the Welfare of the Urban Poor (DWUP) chief, and City Legal Officer Jerone Castillo.

The university was represented by their legal counsel Rene Abcede Jr. and Michael Francis Abad.

“Right now, we are also pulling out because of tension brewing at the site. Some security guards from UP allegedly attacked fire victims, causing a commotion,” Rosell told reporters at 6:20 p.m. shortly after the meeting adjourned.

City Hall which cleared the 4,000-square-meter site with heavy equipment wants to re-block the area and allow families to return to rebuild.

Rosell said it was UP’s responsibility to relocate the informal settlers since the school had plans to erect a high school building there.

“If they have a project to implement, the government institution has to … take care of the welfare of the affected people,” he said.

HALF-HALF AREA

UP Cebu Dean Liza Corro, in a separate interview, said the university is ready to open up 2,000 square meters or half of the 4,000-sq. meter fire site in sitio Avocado as temporary shelter for fire victims.

However, she said the Nivel Hills site offered by the Province of Cebu has to be developed so that informal settlers left homeless by the Dec. 26 fire can move there for a permanent settlement.

“We are not heartless people. UP Cebu has always been pro-poor. This is why we looked for a relocation site and are doing our best to help them,” said Corro.

Corro said sitio Avocado settlers can organize themselves and show their interest in availing of lots of 25 square meters to 32 square meters in the 2-hectare site owned by the Province of Cebu.

“Despite everything that has happened, I am still willing to sit down and talk. Not with the city administrator or DWUP, but with the decision maker, Acting Mayor Edgardo Labella,” said Corro.

She said UP Cebu is not allowed to sell the land to Cebu City because of restrictions in the UP Charter.

An 8-meter road has been opened at the fire site by City Hall engineers who were under orders to continue re-blocking.

Suspended Mayor Michael Rama visited the site in the morning and had a dialog with some fire victims, whom he assured of restoring to their former location.

“We are not claiming the lot. Dili sab mahimo nga kita pa ang nasunogan, unya mawala pa ta. (It also can’t be allowed that fire victims will be displaced.) Mamalik ra ta. Mao ra na. Ako, support ko ana,” he told residents who gathered in tents set up by City Hall at the site. (You will return there. That’s it. I support that.)

At the Capitol, DWUP’s Roselle said that while the UP administration had announced that a relocation was ready he clarified during their meeting that it was not.

“There is an agreement in principle, but the price and the exact location haven’t even been finalized yet,” he said.

Tolentino, for his part, said that UP Cebu requested the province “way back” to donate a lot in barangay Busay for the relocation site.

“Now, it hit a snag because details of that haven’t really been clarified to us yet,” he said in a separate interview.

Tolentino said there is a need to review the agreement and come up with a resolution to the present dispute.

“Since (the fire) happened already, there is now an urgency for us to go back, determine a relocation site, and arrive at some agreement on the terms of relocation so we can end this problem already,” said Tolentino.

The Dec. 26 fire has forced the university, City Hall and the Capitol to work out a solution over the presence of informal settlers in the area. About 240 families or over 800 individuals were left homeless in the blaze.

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TAGS: Cebu City, Lahug, relocation site, UP-Cebu

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