CEBU City officials are seeking a dialogue with occupants of the Province-owned lots, as they await the terms and conditions of Gov. Gwen Garcia in the second round of negotiations on the land swap deal.

Mayor Michael Rama welcomed the governor’s pronouncement to renegotiate with the City Government. He said the Provincial Government is crucial in solving the plight of urban poor occupants of provincial lots, since it owns the properties.

Updates on President Benigno Aquino III's presidency

But before City Hall negotiates, he said, the City Attorney’s Office will have to review the legal and technical ramifications of any land swapping deal, and he will

have to discuss the matter with the city councilors and the urban poor occupants.

Another issue will be what property to turn over to the Province if a deal is reached, since the 3.3-hectare City-owned lot at the North Reclamation Area (NRA) that was supposed to be swapped with provincial lots in the city was already leased to a private developer for 30 years.

In a press conference yesterday, Rama said he has always worked to solve the problem on the possible eviction of the urban poor families by the Province.

“I’d like to repeat it. If there was any fault on my side, I already said it was not my fault. I’ve always wanted to solve the problem. Sad to say there were events that led to where we are today, that we have to reopen negotiations,” he said.

“Now with the statement of the governor, I don’t think it’s good for me to say that we don’t need it, because the one who can solve the problem includes the Province because it’s the one that owns the properties,” Rama said.

The mayor was able to talk with Garcia when they attended a social function earlier this week, but he said the land swap was not mentioned.

He said he will wait for an official notice from the governor before the City starts talking with the Province.

City Councilors Alvin Dizon and Nida Cabrera, who worked closely with the occupants of Capitol-owned lots, welcomed the governor’s statement to reopen negotiations with the City.

Beneficiaries

Some 5,000 urban poor families who are occupying 627,696 square meters of province-owned land in Barangays Luz, Apas, Busay, Mabolo, Lorega, Camputhaw, Lahug, Capitol Site and Kalunasan stand to benefit from a land swap deal.

Of the 5,000 families, close to 2,000 have already paid for their lots in full, but some have yet to get their deed of sale from the Province. The rest have either made partial payments, or did not make any payment at all.

Provincial Ordinance 93-1 allowed the families to buy the lots they are occupying. But when the deadline for the payment lapsed in 2004, the Province started issuing notices of eviction to the occupants.

Rep. Tomas Osmeña (Cebu City, south), who was mayor at that time, proposed a land swap deal to protect the occupants, but negotiations fizzled out.

Dizon, chairman of the City Council committee on housing, said the City will also have to review which of the provincial lots have been paid in full, which he said should no longer be included in the land swap agreement.

“We first have to define the parameters of the negotiations...Atong tan-awon unsa nga mga lots ang nabayran na. Ang mga nakabayad na dili pwede iapil sa land swap kay paid na man na, makiha unya ta if it is covered in the swap.

Katong lots nga partially paid and wala gyud mabayri, kana tingali ang atong iapil (We’ll see what lands are already paid for so that these will not be included in the swap. The ones partially paid for or not paid at all will be included),” he said.

Fernandez

Like Osmeña, Dizon also suggested to Rama to include in the negotiating panel former city administrator Francisco Fernandez, who led the City in the first round of negotiations, and to consult the occupants.

Rama agreed to include Fernandez in the negotiations, but said he cannot take any step yet until he hears from the city attorney, the lot occupants and the governor.

He said even before Garcia said she is open to another negotiation, he had already scheduled a meeting with the urban poor occupants to know the status of their properties.

Cabrera, former barangay captain of Luz, said her constituents welcomed the governor’s plans, saying it has been their dream to end the fears of the people of losing their homes.

In Luz alone, 400 families occupy Capitol lots.

“They hope the lot price will not be increased,” she said.

In the first negotiations, it was agreed the occupants would pay the City for the lots they are occupying, instead of the Province, since the City becomes the owner of the lots until the occupants pay for it in full.