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Sunday, September 26, 2021

Junk petition to reclaim Maritima, City asks court

THE Cebu City Government has asked Regional Trial Court Judge Soliver Peras to dismiss the complaint filed by the National Government, which seeks to recover the Compania Maritima building from the City Government.

City Legal Officer Jerone Castillo asked Peras, the RTC executive judge, to junk the complaint for injunction with quieting of title against City Mayor Michael Rama and City Assessor Eustaquio Cesa.

The Cebu Port Authority (CPA) represents the State in the filing of the suit before the Regional Trial Court last July 7.

During the hearing of the case last July 16, Castillo argued that the certification for non-forum shopping was only issued by the CPA manager and without authority from the National Government.

Such failure to secure authority is ground for dismissal of the complaint, Castillo argued.

The State, through the Office of the Solicitor General, filed the complaint in a bid to recover the Compania Maritima building, which sits on a 42,000-sq.-m. property behind the executive building of City Hall.

Community

CPA Acting Deputy General Manager Yusop Uckung, in a press statement issued in 2013, said that port management and operations for both domestic and foreign were vested in the Bureau of Customs (BOC) before port authorities were created.

Uckung said that in 1975, Presidential Decree 857 created the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) and transferred port operations from the BOC to the PPA.

Section 39 of PD 857 transferred general supervision, control and regulation of port operations and issuance of permits or licenses to build ports, he pointed out.

Likewise, Uckung said, all intangible assets, powers, rights, foreshore rights, interests and privileges belonging to the BOC and Bureau of Public Works (now the Department of Public Works and Highways) and other agencies relating to port works or port operations were also transferred to the PPA from the BOC, under Section 31 of PD 857.

Last June 21, 2013, members of the City Government’s Prevention, Restoration, Order, Beautification and Enhancement (Probe) first demolished the concrete fence on P. Burgos St. and Lapu-Lapu St., which is near the Compania Maritima building, and the concrete fence on Quezon Blvd. and F. Gonzales Ext.

They also removed the metal fence near the entrance and exit of the Cebu South Coastal Road tunnel.

It was Mayor Rama’s decision to tear down the wall and fence that CPA had built around the land surrounding the old Compania Maritima building. The fence had reportedly been built without the local government’s permission.

In the complaint, the OSG said the mayor ordered the demolition of the concrete fence without prior notice.

Owner’s claims

In July 2013, the City Government started claiming ownership of Compania Maritima by acquiring a tax declaration certificate for the property.
But the OSG said the claim lacks legal basis.

The OSG said the State has “equitable title” to the entire baseport of Cebu, including Compania Maritima. The premises were used for docking operations and berthing.

The solicitor-general asked the court to stop the City Government from exercising acts of ownership over the property.

It also asked the court to issue a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to stop the City from “interfering” with its right to manage, maintain, and develop the ports, and to declare its tax declaration void.

After hearing the complaint, Judge Peras directed the city government to submit its reply to the suit on or before July 24.

Both parties were also ordered to submit their respective position papers in 10 days. The case is scheduled for mediation on July 31.

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