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Monday, September 27, 2021

‘Clear the shrine’

THE Cebu City Government asked around 400 residents within Osmeña Shrine in Barangay Kalunasan to vacate the area, saying they had no permission to stay there.

Acting Mayor Margarita Osmeña said she has received complaints about the ongoing activities in the shrine and pointed out that the City gave no one permission to build houses there.

“I have already issued (an order) after going through it. The City Legal Office said that we can demolish them. Even before that, we already knew that there was construction there so we are working on that already, but we are going through the process,” she said.

Based on a letter from Probe division head Raquel Bohol-Arce, the residents have 10 days starting yesterday to voluntarily clear the area, or else, the City will be forced to remove them. Probe stands for the City Government’s Prevention, Restoration, Order, Beautification and Enhancement unit.

Arce said that only 15 names were initially identified, but the Probe team saw more structures when they visited the place.

At least three houses were already finished and were occupied as well.

“Even if their names were not included in the list, we served notices to them also because the order stated that we should include all,” Arce said.

If the owners refuse to tear down the structures until June 10, the City will clear the area itself and confiscate all the housing materials.

“That is why they should voluntarily clear their structures,” Arce added.

But residents who received the notices got angry and claimed that Cebu City Mayor-elect Tomas Osmeña allegedly promised them they were allowed to live there.

Eddieboy Lopez, who has been living for almost a month at Osmena Shrine, told Sun.Star Cebu that the mayor-elect shouldn’t have made any promise he can’t keep.

Promised?

Lopez said he has spent more than P10,000 to build his house yet has no choice but to relocate if the Cebu City Government wants them out.

“Kung hibaw-an pa lang namo nga iyang bakwion ang iyang gisaad sa amoa, maypa’g wala na lang mi nibotar niya (Had we known he would take back his promise, we wouldn’t have voted for him),” Lopez said.
Acting Mayor Osmeña denied this.

“They said Tommy allowed them to move in. Obviously not. How would Tommy (do that)? Just because it’s called Osmeña shrine? It’s owned by the City,” she said.

She said the property has to be fenced and secured, but that the City has no plans to develop the site for now.

“There’s no obligation for the City to relocate them as far as I know. It’s like they just moved in there and we (the City) will owe them,” she added.

Majority of those who started putting up houses claimed to have lived in various areas in Cebu City before relocating to the Osmeña Shrine.

Some residents said they used to rent spaces in areas where demolitions recently occurred.

Green site

Dr. Eddie Llamedo, DENR 7 spokesperson, urged the Cebu City Government to secure Osmeña Shrine as the area is still considered a reforestation site and cutting trees there without a special permit is illegal.

Earlier this year, DENR, particularly the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) of Cebu City, called City Hall’s attention after some residents there reportedly cut down five trees to make way for the construction of makeshift houses.

CENRO Cebu City chief Raul Pasoc has sent a letter informing the Cebu City Government of the matter and urging them to clear the area of illegal settlers.

Llamedo said that Pasoc also plans to inspect the area again to determine if more trees have been cut down.

The acting mayor, for her part, emphasized that clearing works in Osmeña Shrine will not be covered by the moratorium she issued last week.

Osmeña has signed a memorandum prohibiting the Division for the Welfare of the Urban Poor, Local Housing Board, Probe and the City Legal Office from issuing any order, notice or recommendation to demolish or evict vendors and informal settler families.
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