In­fra­struc­ture projects worth P74.6 bil­lion are stalled be­cause of un­re­solved ac­cess prob­lems, ac­cord­ing to Se­na­tor Lac­son. It’s not just a waste of tax­payer money, he says, it’s il­le­gal.


(First of three parts)

SAN PAS­CUAL, BATAN­GAS— A sin­gle-story house stands in the mid­dle of a newly built con­crete road at Barangay Bayanan in this town, an odd­ity that speaks vol­umes about plan­ning for an in­fra­struc­ture project funded by the na­tional gov­ern­ment.

Con­struc­tion work­ers over the last two years had to lit­er­ally skip the Bru­cals’ res­i­dence in the mid­dle of the high­way, leav­ing the house to stand on a mound about 3 me­ters above the paved road.

“We just had the house built last year,” Vic­to­ria Bru­cal said as she and her young daugh­ter hur­ried out of their home, its walls still un­painted, for an­other meet­ing with the gov­ern­ment on a Thurs­day af­ter­noon.

She said her fam­ily was hav­ing prob­lems sell­ing the house to the gov­ern­ment as they had only tax dec­la­ra­tions to prove own­er­ship of the prop­erty.

The gov­ern­ment had of­fered them P710,393.34, but this was only for the house. They were not of­fered any­thing for the land, which is about 100 square me­ters.


Un­der Repub­lic Act No. 10752, or the Right-of-Way Act, the gov­ern­ment may take pri­vate real prop­erty for na­tional gov­ern­ment in­fra­struc­ture projects after pay­ing the own­ers the ap­praised value.

Sec­tion 2 of the law states that the gov­ern­ment must en­sure own­ers “are promptly paid just com­pen­sa­tion for the ex­pe­di­tious ac­qui­si­tion of the re­quired right of way for the projects.”

But re­quire­ments to claim com­pen­sa­tion in­clude land ti­tles or, in the case of im­per­fect ti­tles such as the Bru­cals’, at least 30 years of “con­tin­u­ous, peace­ful pos­ses­sion” of the prop­erty.

Sev­eral other res­i­dents also only have tax dec­la­ra­tions to present, said a 65-year-old landowner, who asked not to be named.

Luck­ily, the landowner only had a cou­ple of ba­n­aba trees to lose when the road ate up 2,000 sq m of her prop­erty, but she had not been paid yet even for those trees.

“We gave them the per­mit to en­ter but told them not to touch any of the struc­tures un­til we get paid,” said an­other prop­erty owner, Jul­ing Espir­itu, 69.

Three of her rel­a­tives’ houses would have to be torn down, even­tu­ally.

Two roads

In 2017, the Depart­ment of Pub­lic Works and High­ways (DPWH) started the con­struc­tion of at least two ma­jor roads in Batan­gas—the 9.69-kilo­me­ter Bauan-San Pas­cual-Batan­gas City by­pass and di­ver­sion road and the 11-km Lipa Ci­tyPadre Gar­cia Di­ver­sion Road.

The projects were pro­posed by Deputy Speaker Ra­neo Abu and Sen. Ralph Recto, re­spec­tively. Abu rep­re­sents the sec­ond dis­trict of Batan­gas, while Recto, a for­mer Batan­gas rep­re­sen­ta­tive, is the hus­band of Lipa City Rep. Vilma San­tos-Recto.

The DPWH said over 50 per­cent of the projects had been com­pleted and some por­tions were al­ready pass­able to pickup trucks or sport util­ity ve­hi­cles.

To this day, how­ever, not a sin­gle landowner had re­ceived com­pen­sa­tion.

At Lipa’s Barangay Tal­isay, the DPWH had com­pleted the first 1-km seg­ment of the con­crete road but stopped con­struc­tion right be­fore the ap­proach to Ju­bi­lant Homes, a 10-year-old low-cost pri­vate sub­di­vi­sion, leav­ing a long stretch of dirt road.

“We’ve al­ready spent more than P300,000 [to have the land ti­tles fixed and com­ply with DPWH re­quire­ments] but haven’t re­ceived a sin­gle cen­tavo [from the gov­ern­ment],” said res­i­dent Marcelino Labo, 59, whose fam­ily owned two prop­er­ties (cov­er­ing a to­tal of 4,000 sq m) in Tal­isay.

Ac­cord­ing to the DPWH, the Lipa-Padre Gar­cia road will fol­low an ex­ist­ing vil­lage road and steer clear of Ju­bi­lant Homes, a com­mu­nity with more than a hun­dred houses.

Right of way prob­lems

De­spite be­ing al­lo­cated P234 mil­lion in the 2018 bud­get, project im­ple­men­ta­tion was stalled due to right of way prob­lems.

Abu said the Bauan-San Pas­cual-Batan­gas City route de­sign had been in the pipe­line since 2014 but the DPWH opted to pri­or­i­tize road widen­ing at the time.

Mar­vey Gon­za­les, head of the DPWH Task Force on Right of Way Ac­qui­si­tion in Batan­gas and Cavite prov­inces, said 147 ti­tle hold­ers were claim­ing com­pen­sa­tion in the Bauan-San Pas­cual-Batan­gas City project and 112 in the Lipa-Padre Gar­cia project.

He said the DPWH had paid a few of the claimants, in­clud­ing pay­ing about P5 mil­lion to one landowner, but only for the cleared out crops and trees.

Find­ing an ap­praiser seemed the pri­mary cause of de­lay in both projects.

Un­der the law, only gov­ern­ment fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions or cen­tral bank-ac­cred­ited ap­prais­ers are al­lowed to as­sess prop­erty for right of way ac­qui­si­tion.

Re­view of the law

Gon­za­les said it was only in Novem­ber 2018 that the DPWH found an in­de­pen­dent ap­praiser—after ef­forts to con­tract Land Bank of the Philip­pines or Lu­zon De­vel­op­ment Bank failed and three un­suc­cess­ful bids for a pri­vate ap­praiser—for the Bauan-San Pas­cual-Batan­gas City project.

The DPWHis still look­ing for an ap­praiser for the Lipa Ci­tyPadre Gar­cia project, he said.

“Ours is only an over­sight func­tion. And we see that what re­ally ham­pered [the project] were the strict pro­vi­sions [in the Right-of-Way Act],” Abu said.

He said he would ini­ti­ate a re­view of the law, par­tic­u­larly the ap­praisal poli­cies and how to com­pen­sate own­ers, in­clud­ing those with­out prop­erty ti­tles.

We gave them the per­mit to en­ter but told them not to touch any of the struc­tures un­til we get paid Jul­ing Espir­itu Prop­erty owner


DIS­CON­NECT This house at Barangay Bayanan, San Pas­cual town, Batan­gas prov­ince, may need some by­pass­ing as it lies oddly in the mid­dle of a 9.69-kilo­me­ter by­pass and di­ver­sion road, no thanks to right of way is­sues.


ROAD BLOCK? An un­set­tled right of way prob­lem in­volv­ing the 10-kilo­me­ter by­pass and di­ver­sion road project in San Pas­cual town, Batan­gas prov­ince, has kept this house stand­ing on its path.

NOPAYMENT Minda Labo, whose prop­erty has been af­fected by the road project, points to a sub­di­vi­sion on the path of the Lipa City-Padre Gar­cia Di­ver­sion Road in Batan­gas City. Labo’s rel­a­tives say they have not re­ceived a sin­gle cen­tavo from the gov­ern­ment.


Ra­neo Abu

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