Housing plan opposed

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Sunday, May 25, 2014


Magalang, Pampanga - Concerned residents at Barangay Ayala here are opposing a huge housing project being pushed by Mayor Romulo Pecson on the slopes of Mt. Arayat.

The proposed project, estimated to cost around P600 million, will be located on a 50-hectare site owned by the local government at the Orchard Village of the barangay and will be funded by a loan from the Land Bank of the Philippines using the town's internal revenue allotment (IRA) as collateral.

Magalang, a first-class municipality, has no less than P100 million IRA annually.

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Documents obtained by Sun.Star Pampanga showed that Pecson had endorsed the project to the Sangguniang Bayan last March 18, requesting authority to enter into a joint venture agreement with Mardee Trading Realty and Development. The firm is owned by a certain Patricio Marcelo.

In his letter to the Sangguniang Bayan, Pecson said the project will involve site development and amenities, including the construction of housing units complete with basic facilities “to accommodate the Magalang constituents living in dangerous zones needing emergency relocation should typhoons, floods and similar calamities strike the Municipality”.

But in an affidavit of formal protest, officers of the Banal A Bunduk Upland Farmers Association (BABUFA) said there has been an existing community in the proposed site for more than 20 years now.

“Being continued and uninterrupted possessors of said site for a long period of time and in good faith, we acquired ownership and property right over said land in issue,” the affidavit said.

Barangay Ayala, including the Orchard Village, was established on vast tracts of lands previously owned by the Pampanga Agricultural College, now Pampanga State Agricultural University, sometime in the 1970s during the administration of former President Ferdinand Marcos in partnership with the old-rich Ayala family, thus the name.

Old-time residents and occupants of the lands and new settlers from various towns in Pampanga now make up the barangay's growing population of about 2,000 people. The barangay was subdivided into three villages according to their means of livelihood, namely Rice, Livestock and Orchard.

Apart from their fears that they will be deprived of their property rights, the villagers also expressed concern for the impact of the proposed project on the physical condition of the mountain.
Last year, huge run-offs from the mountain's slopes inflicted huge damage on houses, public infrastructure, agriculture and businesses on the low-lying areas of the Rice and Livestock villages.

Under the proposed venture, the LGU will secure a letter of credit with Landbank by assigning its IRA as part of its security in favor of the developer.

The local government shall also take care of all the informal settlers in the locality and to relocate all the informal settlers in the municipality within the proposed project which shall be known as the Magalang Green Community Project.

As joint venture partner, Magalang will get 40 percent of the profit while the rest will go the developer.

The BABUFA officers said they highly doubt the motive of the titling of the site in the name of Magalang in 2008, the same year the joint venture was allegedly forged between Pecson and Mardee. (Sun.Star Pampanga Reportorial Team)

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on May 26, 2014.

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