Rama to help Apas dwellers, as Gwen counts cost of camp transfer

CEBU City Mayor Michael Rama has assured residents in Barangay Apas that he will discuss possible remedies with Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia following the turnover of lots from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Visayas Command to the Cebu Provincial Government.

This, as Garcia began negotiations with the Department of National Defense (DND) on the cost to Capitol of replicating the military camp in a new location.

Mayor Rama told SunStar Cebu Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022, that the City Government had the moral obligation to look out for the welfare of the citizens who are concerned that they might be asked to vacate the properties they are occupying.

Last Oct. 3, Capitol recovered at least 17.5 hectares of the 80 hectares of land occupied by Camp Lapu-Lapu from the AFP after a dispute of nearly 30 years.

DND Secretary Jose Faustino Jr. turned over to Governor Garcia the titles of the 17.5 hectares of land covering an initial 16 lots in a ceremony at the Capitol Social Hall. The full 80 hectares involve a total of 47 parcels of land.

The AFP had violated the condition set by the Capitol for its donation of the land in 1959 that it be used for military purposes only, by allowing homes and a golf driving range to be built there.

Apas village chief Virgil Cabigon said 5,000 households in 10 sitios could be affected.

Cabigon said their barangay hall, the Apas National High School, Apas Elementary School, and the Camp Lapu-Lapu Elementary School were also situated in the involved lots.

However, Garcia said on Wednesday that only some 1,000 households would be affected by the recent return of lands.

Rama said he would send representatives to discuss the concerns of the residents with the governor.

“Why would they worry, when I was reading the comments of the governor, and these are homeowners. And the City Government has a moral obligation here because they are Cebu City residents,” said Rama in a mix of Cebuano and English.

Rama further said he will instruct Division for the Welfare of the Urban Poor head Dax Arcilla to also look into the status of the residents.

Collin Rosell, executive secretary of Rama, said he would also be involved and already had a “working idea” on the whole topic.

Asked if the City Government was willing to procure the properties for a socialized housing program, Rama replied that he would not discuss that matter for now.

On Wednesday, the governor had said that in regard to the Camp Lapu-Lapu settlers, “there is always a win-win situation” and that she would honor the memorandum of understanding (MOU) she had signed in 2007 that takes into account the existence of the occupants.

In fact, Garcia said, an inventory of occupants in the area had already been conducted in 2007, and the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council had made a list, which is why the National Housing Authority and now, the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development are involved in the agreement.

Garcia also told reporters Wednesday, that under the MOU she had signed with then DND Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. in 2007, Viscom had to return the 16 parcels of the Capitol-donated land that had not been occupied by military structures, while the Provincial Government would allocate funds for the construction of the military facility at a new location in northern Cebu.

Negotiating transfer

The Cebu Provincial Government and the DND are now negotiating on the transfer of the AFP Visayas headquarters, Capitol’s online news portal Sugbo News announced.

Those who attended the negotiations Tuesday were Garcia, her legal consultants, DND Assistant Secretary Emmanuel Anthony Ramos and some AFP personnel.

Government officials discussed the amount that the Capitol would spend for the relocation of the AFP Viscom headquarters.

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“Somehow, somewhere, we have to reach a certain amount that will be common, collectively agreed upon. That is the path we will go,” Garcia said through Sugbo News.

Under the 2007 MOU, the Capitol would allot P1 billion for the replication of the military facility.

Garcia said the parties would now have to agree on the parameters to use in deciding on the replication cost “in order to arrive at the 2007 levels,” Sugbo News reported.

Where to relocate

A Viscom official said the Visayas Command now just awaits the decision of the DND on whether to accept Garcia’s offer to relocate Camp Lapu-Lapu in Barangay Apas, Cebu City to a 1,050-hectare property in the northwestern town of Tuburan.

“We are very thankful to our good governor for the offer, and we have referred the matter to the DND since they are the ones that exercise the authority, directions and control over military affairs, which include the establishment of military installations,” said Army Major Israel Galorio, Viscom chief information officer.

Galorio clarified that Viscom had no objections to the 2019 Supreme Court ruling that returned 16 parcels of land of Camp Lapu-Lapu to the Provincial Government.

He said Viscom representatives even attended the ceremonial turnover of the properties at the Provincial Capitol where both parties agreed to find a solution to the problems that continued to dog the issue.

Officials of Viscom, then called the Central Command or Centcom, had not agreed to the terms of the 2007 MOU signed by the DND and Garcia and had brought the case to court.

“There is no finality on the matter. Rest assured that we will abide by the policies and directives that will be issued by the DND pertaining to this matter,” said Galorio.

Galorio said the Bohol Provincial Government also offered a property in Bohol as a possible relocation site for the camp.

Galorio assured the public that a transfer won’t affect Viscom’s internal security operations against forces that threaten the government and residents of Central Visayas.

He also said they had already informed soldiers affected by the transfer of properties to the Cebu Provincial Government to prepare to move out. / IRT, ANV / TPT, AYB / PJB