Over 150 Oprra homeowners can now buy Capitol-owned lots

MORE than a hundred homeowners occupying the Cebu Province-owned lots of the Old Philippine Railway Residents Association (Oprra) Inc. in Barangay Kalunasan, Cebu City can now apply to own the lots if they agree to the appraised value of P11,000 per square meter and acquire their lots through the Pag-Ibig Fund.

This development was reported by Sugbo News, the official news platform of the Cebu Provincial Government, on Friday, Jan. 13, 2023.

The breakthrough came after Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia agreed to retain the lot’s reappraised value of P11,000 per square meter “as a sign of good faith to residents who showed interest to purchase the province-owned lot with the aid of the Home Development Mutual Fund or Pag-Ibig,” the report said.

Garcia said P11,000 had been the appraised value in 2019 yet and that the value had already risen since, but that she would not seek an updated appraisal.

The yearslong issue was settled after the governor’s meeting with 156 homeowners on Thursday that was also attended by National Housing Authority and Pag-Ibig Fund officials.

In that meeting, Garcia said the offer was available to those present at the Capitol Social Hall.

It is unclear what will happen to the other homeowners who did not attend the meeting.

Unity sought

The governor had also met with the homeowners last year on the issue.

There are 548 subdivided household lots in Oprra, according to Sugbo News.

Last November, only 142 residents expressed interest in buying through Pag-Ibig the lots they had been occupying for decades, prompting Garcia to give them until this month to convince the remaining over 300 informal settlers to file their application with Pag-Ibig so they could legitimize their occupation of the lots.

The governor had wanted to avoid the situation in which some of the residents would pay for their lots while others would not. So she hinged the Provincial Government’s approval of the sale of the lots on the over 500 informal settlers’ coming to a unified decision to buy the lots.

The residents are members of three associations in Oprra: Old Philippine Railway Homeowners Association (OPRHA), Actual Occupants and Residents of Oprra Kalunasan Inc. (AOROK), and Oprra United Homeowners Association (OUHA), the Capitol said.

Market value

Members of AOROK have long expressed interest in purchasing the lots.

The Province of Cebu and AOROK signed a memorandum of agreement as early as Sept. 10, 2012 that indicated that “selling, transferring and conveying to AOROK the remaining sold and saleable subdivided lots containing the total area of 40,560 square meters” was allowed.

The unsold lots had an average size of 120 square meters or a total of around 40,000 square meters, the Capitol said in early 2020.

On Jan. 20, 2020, Garcia told these associations that their members must negotiate directly with Pagibig after they failed to settle their nearly 50-year-old obligation to the Provincial Government.

1971 sales deal

The Oprra story started in 1971, during the time of governor Osmundo Rama, when the Province sold the lots near the old Philippine railway to the Aznar family.

Residents were relocated to Barangay Kalunasan with an assurance that the lots would be sold to them.

The Province of Cebu and Oppra executed a sales agreement on June 7, 1971 involving 11 parcels of land owned by the Province, which it was selling to qualified Oppra Inc. members for P10 per square meter.

The 11 parcels of land were subsequently subdivided into several home lots, some of which had already been sold by Capitol to its occupants and qualified beneficiaries, Capitol said previously.

In the years that followed, conflicts occurred after then governor Eduardo Gullas signed a few deeds of sale to some individuals who had paid directly to Capitol, riling the officials of the association who believed it was their right to handle the disposal of the lots.

Gullas was governor from 1976 to 1986.

A case was filed before the court, which issued a restraining order that prevented the issuance of deeds of sale.

In the early part of the administration of the late Pablo Garcia, Gwendolyn’s father, a compromise agreement was forged, but this did not solve the problem.

Before his nine-year stint as governor ended in 2004, however, the elder Garcia was able to sign deeds of absolute sale for some lots occupied by Oprra members who had been living there for 33 years.

On April 16, 2012, the Cebu Provincial Board, through Resolution 593-2012, terminated the 1971 sales agreement after the Capitol, now under Gwendolyn Garcia, found that Oprra Inc. and its members had not complied with the provisions of the agreement, Sugbo News said.