CITY OF SAN FERNANDO -- A group held Thursday a rally calling the City Government to “redesign” the city’s flood mitigation project in transforming the waterways into a world class water park.

Some 20 members of Samahan ng mga Pinapaalis sa Tabing Ilog (Pinatag) said the structure and design of the project known as Sagip Ilog is detrimental to them.

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Sagip Ilog, which is a multi-million peso project funded by a foreign grant, is foreseen to spur economic activities and draw in investments as well as provide employment opportunities for nearby communities.

But City Administrator Ferdinand Caylao said the design of the Salip Ilog structures, like the ripraps and elevated path walks could not be redesigned or altered.

“That has passed through strict evaluation of our design consultants. It will weaken the whole structure itself. Besides, their allegation that it is detrimental to them seems to emanate from their call to remain in their places, which we could not do. We cannot give in to a few encroachers and illegal settlers for the benefit of the majority,” said Caylao.

Flood czar Marni Castro also said that "…Redesigning it (Sagip Ilog) is not possible" because it will only weaken the structure.

Meanwhile, other members of Pinatag, who would be affected if the redesign will pursue, said the “beautification project” is not necessary at all because of the current global crisis.

“Hindi naman po sa hindi kami sumasang-ayon sa Sagip Ilog. Gusto lang naming ma-redesign ito at tanggalin ang path walks at ripraps sa gilid upang hindi na kami mapaalis dito. Sabi nila palalaparin ang ilog e lalo lang kumitid ito. Hindi namin kailangan ang beautification project sa panahon ng crisis. Kulang ang public hearing at information dissemination nito,” said Pinatag official Philip Tayag.

He told Sun.Star Pampanga that many of their neighbors relocated at Northville 14 have been complaining of the lack of facilities in the area like a market, school and the absence of livelihood programs, which forced them to return to the site near the river.

“Walang livelihood doon at eskwela. Kulang din ang binibigay nilang P1,000 relocation allowance. Oo nga, marami sa amin dito ay walang titulo sa aming tinitirhan pero mayroon din naman kaming karapatang pantao. Sayang ang mga boto naming, baka hindi nila naisip iyun,” an elderly official said.

The group, who timed their rally with the City Government’s “Magsilbi Tamu” mission in Barangay Del Pilar where many residents have been affected by Sagip Ilog, vowed to stage a bigger protest to be participated in by seven other barangays with some 500-member families.

Caylao, however, denied the lack of facilities at Northville 14 saying that “there is a market place there, and the school will be operational before the next school year opens. In terms of livelihood, residents there are supported with various livelihood programs. And siguro, ang mga nagpo-protesta ay hindi umatend ng mga public hearing, which started in 2005 together with the massive social preparations we have done with the National Housing Authority, Commission on Human Rights, the Department of Public Works and Highways and other stakeholders,” Caylao added.

Officials of the city’s Community Affairs Division and Local Housing and Settlement Section corroborated Caylao’s pronouncements and said that relocatees at Northville 14 have been getting more than enough support from the City Government.

“Hundreds are now benefiting from our rags to riches program, emergency employment, nego karts (small business franchise), job fairs and regular medical missions there. Those relocated there are top priority for us,” they said.

The protesters dispersed peacefully before lunch.