SINCE the start of the Cebu City Government’s campaign against flooding last Aug. 8, around 800 illegal structures that were built along the city’s major waterways have been demolished.
However, the demolition of private structures within the three-meter easement of major rivers continues to hamper the governments’ clearing operations and river improvement projects.
Councilor Jerry Guardo, chairman of the committee on infrastructure, told SunStar Cebu Friday, Oct. 7, 2022, that the city has tagged 14,000 illegally built structures, but so far, only 800 of these have been removed.
Meanwhile, the city government has also identified 17 privately owned lots that have encroached on the river’s easement zone.
The private properties are located along Bulacao River, Lahug River and Tejero Creek.
Guardo said the City Council has approved the financial assistance worth P35,000 each for the owners of the 17 demolished houses in Barangay Mambaling that were not included during the initial distribution of the cash aid.
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has downloaded P140 million to the city government to be used as financial assistance to the illegal settlers who will be displaced.
According to Guardo, they have already met with the owners of the private properties and the latter were cooperative and willing to sell their lots to the government.
“We had a scheduled meeting last week, and I am glad that they are very cooperative and they are open for lot acquisition,” said Guardo.
Since the river improvement project is being undertaken by the DPWH, the funds for the lot acquisition will be released by the national government.
The councilor said the DPWH is now in the process of identifying the value of the properties for it to be appropriated with the corresponding budget.
While waiting for the finalization of the lot acquisition, the DPWH is securing a permit to enter from the lot owners to mobilize its equipment for the agency’s flood control projects, he added.
Guardo explained that the contractors should be given access since the project is good for only one year, and it might be terminated if it cannot be started right away.
“Once it’s terminated, the funds will revert to the national government. We might be having problems in securing back the funds,” said Guardo.
The city government is helping the DPWH to expedite the lot acquisition since the river improvement projects are in line with Mayor Michael Rama’s “gubat sa baha” (war against flood), he said.
Under Presidential Decree 1067, or The Water Code of the Philippines, the banks of rivers and streams and the shores of the seas and lakes throughout their entire length and within a zone of three meters in urban areas, along their margins, are subject to the easement of public use in the interest of recreation, navigation, floatage, fishing and salvage. No person may build structures of any kind there.