CONSTRUCTION of transition housing will soon begin for those who will be affected by the Cebu City Government’s program to clear the three-meter easement of waterways, but the transition homes will no longer be container vans as earlier announced, city officials said last week.

Nearly 1,000 housing units will be set up at the South Road Properties (SRP), and the structures will take three to four months to build, the City reported Friday.

The transition housing will no longer be a container van. It will be styled like one, but the structure will be durable enough to last 25 years.

“Housing gyud nga permanent (It will be permanent housing),” said Collin Rosell, secretary to Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama.

He said that under Rama’s housing program, there are those who could avail themselves of the program for free, so for such people the transition homes would act as a formation house.

“Free, but that is with training, livelihood training, all kinds of skills training, plus schooling. It will be like a formation house,” Rosell said.

Rosell said Task Force Gubat sa Baha (TFGB or War against Flooding) is now verifying who are to be the beneficiaries of the housing units.

Residents only

“They should be real residents of Cebu City,” he said, noting that some were just renters who were not actually city residents. Rosell explained that from his long experience of handling the urban poor, he has observed that the number of residents living by the rivers grows quickly if there is an establishment nearby where residents could find work because the employees, like the salesladies and other workers, would want to rent there.

Jerone Castillo, head of the City Legal Office and special assistant to the mayor, said nearly 5,000 people were already listed for the housing program who are subject to verification.

“We are already close to 5,000 people, subject to verification,” Castillo said, “because what we agreed on was that the river commander, the DWUP (Division for the Welfare of the Urban Poor) and the barangay official will have to sign because if we don’t verify, the list will just keep getting longer.”

He said they could not allow the number of beneficiaries to keep ballooning “just to accommodate some political accommodations. It really has to be based on need. Whatever is on the ground, that is all that the City of Cebu will verify.”

Eight city hall officials have been designated as “river commanders,” the focal persons of TFGB in supervising and monitoring the rehabilitation of each of the city’s major rivers.

The City Government said profiling continues for those who wish to avail themselves of the Pambansang Pabahay Para sa Pilipino Program, under which 10 high-rise buildings, with a total of 8,000 units, will be built across the SRP for the families that will be affected by the three-meter easement rule implementation, as well as the fire victims in the city.

The construction of the 20-story buildings within a 25-hectare development site can now begin after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and local officials broke ground on the Cebu City South Coastal Urban Development (Scud) housing project in Barangay San Nicolas last Feb. 27, of which the 10 buildings comprise part of Phase 1.

Drainage plan

Cebu City is recovering the easement of major rivers to speed up the implementation of the P44 billion Metro Cebu Integrated Flood and Drainage Master Plan to solve the city’s flooding woes. The implementation of the plan has been hampered in part by the presence of informal settlers by the waterways.

Earlier this year, TFGB co-chairman Gerardo Carillo suggested putting up a “Container City” in a five-hectare lot in the SRP to serve as temporary housing for the affected families while they awaited completion of the construction of the MRBs.

He said around 400 families could be housed in the vans at any given time, and the City was preparing to buy 200 vans that will be refurbished.

Carillo said an estimated 16,000 to 18,000 informal settlers live within the three-meter easement zones of the city’s major waterways.

Under the Water Code of the Philippines or Presidential Decree (PD) 1067, no structure should be erected inside the easement zones from the edge of the banks of rivers, streams, shores of the sea and lakes. PD 1067 asserts that there must be three-meter easement zones in urban areas, 20-meter easements in agricultural areas, and 40-meter easements in forest areas.