AFTER more than a decade of waiting, nearly 5,000 occupants of the 93-1 lots heard the news that they described as the “best Christmas gift of their lives.”
The Cebu City Council yesterday ratified en masse a memorandum of agreement (MOA) on the land swap deal between the City Government and the Provincial Government.
Emily Malto, president of the 93-1 Movement, thanked the City and Province for their “Christmas gift.” She said the homeowners’ next move is to discuss their payment obligations with the City.
The Province will exchange 32 hectares of lots in Cebu City, most of these occupied, with almost 17 hectares from the City Government, including prime commercial properties. The Provincial Board (PB) last Monday authorized the governor to pursue an agreement with the City.
Back in 1993, the Province had approved a program that would allow informal settlers to pay for the Capitol-owned lots their families occupied. More than 10 years ago, the City proposed the exchange.
During the City Council’s regular session yesterday, the ad hoc committee for 93-1 recommended authorizing the MOA, saying they had found the exchange consistent with the law and morals.
The committee is composed of Councilors Atty. Jose Daluz III, Atty. Raymond Garcia, Atty. Jocelyn Pesquera, Jerry Guardo and Philip Zafra.
“One of the transcendental and ultimate drives in entering into this land swap deal is the resolution of the properties covered by Provincial Ordinance 93-1. This land swap deal, mindful of the plight of the beneficiaries, undertakes to extend all possible assistance and resources to help them in their sincerest desire to secure their abode through the City’s socialized housing program,” reads a portion of the committee report.
Councilor Garcia contradicted the mayor’s claim that the majority bloc, composed of Team Rama councilors, would approve the agreement “out of fear.”
The mayor earlier said that the Team Rama councilors were trying to block the agreement’s approval, after they deferred it for a week to let the ad hoc committee review the deal.
Based on the MOA, the Province will give the City 32 hectares of occupied lots, spread across several barangays. It will also hand over 1.5 hectares in the Department of Agriculture compound along M. Velez; 2,358 square meters (sq.m.) along Gorordo Ave. in Barangay Lahug; and 577 sq.m. along Don Gil Garcia St. in Capitol Site.
In exchange, the City will offer to the Province 2.5 hectares in the South Road Properties (SRP); a 3.3-hectare block behind SM City in Barangay Mabolo; a 2.5-hectare botanical garden behind SM Seaside in the South Road Properties; 9 hectares in Barangay Pulpogan, Consolacion; the 13,711 sq.m. septage treatment plant lot; and the 2.476 sq.m. City Abattoir.
The deal also includes the return of the City’s possession of and rights to its zoo, one of the conditions set by the Province.
Of the 4,364 home lots covered under Provincial Ordinance 93-1, only 1,445 have been paid for in full and 1,188 have been partially paid. A total of 1,731 lots were not paid for at all.
Beneficiaries had two years to pay for the property on an installment basis when the ordinance was approved in 1993.
A 10-year extension was granted to them, but the period lapsed in 2004.
Although the MOA was already signed last Dec. 7 by Mayor Tomas Osmeña and Governor Hilario Davide III even without the Provincial Board’s or the Council’s approval, Daluz said he understands the mayor.
He called the act an “expression of concurrence” to address the plight of the settlers.
In his news conference last Monday, the mayor said he thinks the Team Rama-dominated council will approve the signing of the MOA, afraid of the affected residents’ “wrath” and his threat of an electoral recall.
During his news conference yesterday, hours before the council’s regular session, Osmeña said that while the committee has signified their approval, he doesn’t trust “traitors.”
He reiterated his warning of a recall should the Council decide to reject the MOA.
Interviewed separately, Provincial Legal Officer Orvi Ortega said the exchange is advantageous to the Province, as the City-owned lots being offered are unoccupied.
“Samtang kadtong atong gibaylo naa na may mga tawo’ng nagpuyo, di na man na nimo pa ma padako pa ang value ana, lisod na kaayo pa nga imo pa i-eject (The lots from the Province are occupied and it would be difficult for its value to increase. It would also be difficult to eject the occupants),” Ortega said.
Ortega added that some City-owned lots in SRP, which the Province will get, are surrounded by lots that are being developed, so their value is bound to keep rising.
Ortega said that once authority is granted, the Province will prepare the documents like a lot title, sketch plan and others to facilitate a deed of exchange between the City and Province.