400 homes gone in 3 days

·5 min read

AFTER three days of relentless clearing operations, the Cebu City Government has cleared about 400 of the 600 illegal structures encroaching on the Kinalumsan River.

The structures were situated along a two-kilometer riverbank in Barangays Duljo-Fatima and Mambaling, Councilor Jerry Guardo told SunStar Cebu Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022.

Guardo said the clearing team did not encounter any resistance as some of the affected residents voluntarily demolished their structures.

The clearing operation was conducted in line with the order of Mayor Michael Rama to reclaim the three-meter easement zone in all waterways in the city, he said.

This will also allow the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to fast-track its implementation of various flood control projects in the city.

According to Guardo, there is a simultaneous clearing operation all around the city but they are giving priority to Kinalumsan River since there are 200 structure owners who did not vacate despite having been paid to leave already by the government.

“In Kinalumsan, there are 200 structure owners who have already received the financial (assistance) but have not totally vacated (the area). That is why we are forced to implement the clearing operations,” said Guardo.

However, Guardo also admitted that there are still a few affected residents who have not received the cash aid but that the city government is already hastening the release of the financial assistance.

Guardo said 20 families have not received the assistance, but they are currently sheltered in Basak San Nicolas Elementary School and are being assisted by the city government.

The demolition team also encountered structures that are built on private lots, but Guardo said they are dealing with them separately.

Guardo assured that the private lot owners will also be compensated once the land value is determined along with the size of the property that will be affected.

The campaign of the government will not stop at the clearing operations but continue with making sure that the residents don’t return and build new structures along the river, said Guardo.

Once the area is cleared, Guardo said roads will be built that can be accessed by the public as shortcut routes.

The city government will also deploy personnel who will act as “river watchers” and implement laws that aim to maintain the cleanliness of the rivers, he added.

After clearing the Kinalumsan River, the city government will then focus its operations on the Guadalupe and Lahug Rivers, Guardo said.

Last Aug. 5, Rama ordered the removal of at least 2,000 structures along rivers and waterways in the city to prevent casualties during heavy rains following the Aug. 4 downpour that caused flooding and the overflowing of several rivers in the city.

The rains also caused floods in several areas in Mandaue City, particularly the flood-prone areas where at least 171 families had to be evacuated.

Mandaue City

The Mandaue City government, however, has not yet decided on the resumption of the clearing of illegal structures located within the three-meter easement zone in the city’s riverbanks despite the pouring rain that recently hit Cebu in the last two weeks.

City Administrator Jamaal James Calipayan told SunStar Cebu on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022, that they stopped clearing the three-meter zones when the Covid-19 pandemic started in 2020. But some structures were taken down during the pandemic, especially those affected by ongoing flood control projects.

Among the areas where they conducted clearing were Centro-Tipolo Creek, Ibabao-Estancia Creek, Casili-Consolacion Creek (Cubacub area), Basak Creek, Cansaga Bridge (mangrove area), with Mahiga Creek and the Butuanon River as their top priorities.

Calipayan said they would conduct a new assessment to determine the number of existing illegal structures within these danger zones.

Data from the Housing and Urban Development Office (Hudo), however, show that there were 1,161 families illegally situated along the Butuanon River and 714 families along the Mahiga Creek in 2013 but that these numbers have dropped to 839 families in Butuanon and 597 families in Mahiga in 2022.

Other areas also saw significant drops in informal settlers from 2013 to 2022, such as Centro-Tipolo from 622 to 318, Mactan Channel from 719 to 616, and Basak Creek from 235 to 195 families, after the city government’s successive clearing operations.

Ibabao-Estancia, from having 171 families in 2013, was also cleared. But Casili-Consolacion Creek remained with 13 families, while Cansaga Bridge had an increased population of informal settlers from 174 to 180 families in 2022.

All in all, the areas had been cleared of a total of 1,266 out of 4,563 households so far, which is about 27 percent of their target.

Mandaue Mayor Jonas Cortes said earlier he aimed to clear these river areas to prevent casualties and accidents during calamities as part of the city government’s rehabilitation program.

He said they would establish nature parks in these areas once cleared to prevent informal settlers from returning.

Vincent Gay Aquino, Hudo head, said about 1,200 of the informal settlers affected by the clearing operations, particularly in Mahiga and Butuanon, had already relocated to the housing project the city government had allotted for them in 6.5 Zone Ahos in Barangay Paknaan.

Others availed themselves of the Balik Probinsya program by the City Social Welfare and Services, where beneficiaries who wish to return to their provinces receive P10,000 in financial assistance.

To convince the remaining informal settlers to vacate these danger zones, Aquino said they had initiated a nine-year Local Shelter Plan, which started in 2021 and will run through 2029, to provide more shelters and relocation sites. They are now coordinating with key shelter agencies to fund the housing.