Sunday , June 24, 2018

Families still living in ‘no-build zones’ 6 years after 'Sendong'

SOME 3,000 families in Cagayan de Oro City are presently living in no-build zones, many of which, according to a city official, were badly hit by Tropical Storm Sendong six years ago today, December 17.

Ermin Pimentel, head of the City Housing and Urban Development Department (CHUDD), said the 3,000 families include Sendong survivors and other informal settlers.

Pimentel blames the supposed absence of a local policy to enforce the prohibition of building in these areas, which are declared as no-build zones by then President Benigno Aquino III, as the reason why families are going back or refusing to leave.

No-build zones refer to easement areas defined under existing laws and policies that are not recommended for human habitation by virtue of the danger it poses to human life and/or property.

Pimentel said some of the families cannot leave their homes because these are already titled lots.

"Ang problema sa (The problem about the) no-build zone, walay policy paper (there are no policy paper), kay pagdeclare ni PNoy (because when President Noy declared it) it was not backed by an ordinance really. I think it’s now the responsibility of the City Council," he said.

"Gapangitaon sa City Council ang (The City Council is finding the) papers of the No-Build Zone for it to be implemented," Pimentel added.

According to Floresa Sabugaa, division chief of the Homeowners and Community Development Division, verbally declared areas of no-build zones by former President Aquino were Isla Delta, Isla Baksan, Isla Bugnao, all in Barangay Consolacion; Isla de Oro inBarangay 13; and the Cala-Cala, Tibasak, in Barangay Macasandig; considered as ground zero of the Sendong tragedy in 2011.

Also declared were all areas along coastlines and riverside of Balulang and parts of Carmen

But City Councilor Teodulfo Lao Jr. said the previous council had passed a Zoning Ordinance that covers areas that are declared no-build zones but that the executive has not implemented it.

Lao pointed out that this is not the first ordinance that the executive failed to implement, this is why he intends to create an oversight committee.

The committee will look into the ordinances passed by previous councils of Cagayan de Oro that are not implemented. The committee, he said, will reprimand the implementing body to enforce the resolutions.

"The chief executive could create a task force for the resolutions that need enforcement, or they can coordinate it through the barangays, it depends, so that the work should not be focused on the mayor," he said.

"In the City Council, we pass resolutions, and in fact this year we approved so many proposed purchase of lots for relocation areas so that these families living in hazardous places should be transferred. We do not want another Sendong. It is the primordial duty of the City Government, the public welfare," he said.

Pimentel, however clarified that all Sendong survivors will be prioritized in the housing program, pointing out that the city bought a total of 75 hectares of land this year, for relocation sites.

Two relocation sites are underway, the first one, the 722 houses donated by Japan Government, while the other, the 788 housing units donated by the Habitat for Humanity.

Pimentel said the 3,000 informal settlers are already being documented and that CHUDD personnel are currently going around, informing and sending out notices to these households for their transfer soon.

By 1st quarter next year, 200 housing units of the 722 will rise uptown, starting the transfer of these informal settlers, Pimentel said.

"Mayor wants to create a policy to normalize the land acquisition strategy, a policy that should not break and should be followed by next administrations. He also wants to create an urban development plan to maximize land use," he added.

Next year, the housing department will target another 60 hectares of land purchase to build more relocation sites and eventually address the 34,000 backlog of housing units for the informal settlers.

Pimentel, however, admitted that the city can implement its zoning policy especially on no build zones if it wants to.

"It's still political will," he said.