Squatters can stay for now

THE fire victims in Sitio Avocado, Barangay Lahug, Cebu City will be temporarily allowed to stay in the fire site while their permanent relocation site is being prepared.

This was the initial agreement that was made between officials of the University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu, who owns the area struck by fire, the Cebu City Government and the Provincial Government.

The officials met Monday night at the office of Atty. UP Dean Atty. Liza Corro after they failed to come up with clear solutions when they met earlier that day at the Provincial Capitol.

Those who were present during the meeting, aside from Corro, were City Legal Office Chief Atty. Jerone Castillo, City Administrator Lucelle Mercado, Division for the Welfare of the Urban Poor Chief Atty. Collin Rosell and Provincial Administrator Mark Tolentino.

Running out of time

In an interview yesterday, Castillo said the school agreed to temporarily allow the fire victims to stay in the fire site and for the City to re-block it to prevent bigger fires while families are living there.

Castillo said Corro asked that the families be only allowed to stay for a certain period of time.

As to how long, he said they will meet to discuss the matter so it can be finalized.

Castillo said they were made to understand also by the UP dean that the school also needs to implement the construction of its P65-million high school building in the area.

This, so funds for the project will not be reverted back to the coffers of the National Government. The project was reportedly awarded to a contractor in 2013 yet.

“We had a meaningful discussion. We agreed very well that the intention of UP is also to add more buildings. They are also running out of time to implement the program. We also feel for UP. At the same time, we made her (Corro) understand that we cannot just remove this people summarily,” Castillo said.

Assistance

The identified permanent relocation site for the fire victims is located in a two-hectare provincial lot in Barangay Busay.

There is a plan to turn over the property to the school, but Castillo said he is yet to see the memorandum of agreement.

Castillo said the City may help UP develop the relocation site. As to how long it will take to develop it, he said it is not yet known.

He said the DWUP also raised the possibility that the families who will be relocated there be covered under the City’s socialized housing program.

On how they will go about it considering that the property is not owned by the City, Castillo said there are legal mechanisms for it as long as the concerned parties agree.

Acting Mayor Edgardo Labella, for his part, said the City is willing to continue talking with UP so the plight of the fire victims and other issues will be addressed.

“We will continue to look for solutions because these informal settlers have rights also that need to be protected,” he said.

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