DPWH: Funds available for RROW payments for JICA Flood Control Project

Sep 30, 2014

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There are funds available for Road Right of Way payments to properties to be affected by the multi-billion flood control project for the Cagayan River.

 

Sandra V. Flores, regional information officer and spokesperson of the Department of Public Works and Highways Region X (DPWH-10), said part of the PhP 726-million budget from the PhP 8.7-billion total project cost has been earmarked for RROW payments.

 

Aerial shot of Sendong floods along Cagayan River on December 17, 2011 by Elpidio M. Paras

“Affected landowners will be compensated provided they submit the documents required by the Commission on Audit,” Flores said during the NEDA Media Forum held 17 September at the NEDA/RDC-X Main Conference Room. “So funds are available for those who have titled properties. However, ‘illegal occupants’ who are occupying public lands will not be compensated.”

 

Nevertheless, Flores said should the project contractor be willing to pay illegal occupants a “disturbance fee, “this would not be the accountability of DPWH but included in the contract with the contractor. She said DPWH would only assist in helping relocate illegal occupants including dismantling and assembling their present dwellings to their appointed relocation site.

 

So far, Flores said the Estate Management Division of the Cagayan de Oro City Government has already identified potential relocation sites for illegal occupants who would be dislocated by the project but these are not yet ready for occupancy for a number of reasons, among them the lack of funds for land acquisition.

 

“Right now we are coordinating with the National Housing Authority for the construction of structures,” Flores said. “However, some Sendong survivors are unwilling to move out of their present dwellings since it would affect their livelihood. Nevertheless, we are ready to pay just compensation to private landowners with titled properties.

 

The flood risk mitigation program is a joint project between DPWH in the national government and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

 

According to the JICA website, the objective of the project is to mitigate flood risk in Cagayan de Oro River Basin through the construction of flood protection measures, and thereby contributing to the sustainable and stable economic development in Cagayan de Oro River Basin.

 

Aerial view of flooded Cagayan de Oro in the aftermath of TS Sendong on December 17, 2011 (photo by Elpie Paras)

The initial plan for the flood control project designed to control floods in the Cagayan River drew flak from landowners and residents whose dwelling and properties were found to be sited outside the dikes running 12 kilometers upstream on both sides of the river.

 

However, Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Oscar S. Moreno said it’s too early to react to what is essentially only an initial study drawn up for the purpose of negotiating the loan with the Japanese government.

 

“This is a good project but controversial. JICA contracted an engineering group which was mandated to come up with the plan. The account is not that big I think that should be enough for JICA’s engineers’ assessment for the next 25 years,” the mayor explained during the RDC-X Full Council meeting held 19 August 2014 at a local hotel in Cagayan de Oro City.  “So what the engineers did was a 25 year flood control program. Given the limited budget, the engineers situated the embankment not far from the riverbank and that’s where the controversy lies.”

 

“I want everyone to realize this is just an academic exercise, something the JICA can use for discussion purposes. This is not yet the detailed plan,” he stressed. “This was made on the basis of a classroom discussion of the Mega Plan and do whatever you can given this amount. I want to stress there has been adequate discussion of this program at the barangay level. For long I also came to know that some landowners questioned privately and publicly that they were not consulted.”

“At this stage, one on one discussion with the landowners would not be appropriate yet since it is still a plan for discussion purposes. Nothing is concrete yet,” he added.

Flores said the JICA study team based its initial study on the areas affected by Tropical Storm Sendong last December 16-17, 2011 to designated the so-called “No Build Zone.”

 

Mayor Moreno said the project is now awaiting NEDA Board approval following its earlier approval by the Investment Coordinating Council, (ICC), the body tasked to scrutinize and approve or disapprove projects funded by official development assistance (ODA).

 

“The next step is to finalize the loan negotiations between the two governments.  Once the loan is finalized we can go into the preparation of the detailed engineering. The implementation would take about eight years and hopefully the start would take place if not this year, next year,” Moreno added.

 

The mayor urged the affected stakeholders to be patient and wait for the right time to voice their views on the project once it is finalized.

 

“My position on this issue is that the risk would be far greater to everyone if this project would not push through,” Mayor Moreno emphasized. “What we can do is we can address particular risks to certain groups and individuals best as we can and hoping that JICA would listen.”

 

“Our primary objective is to come up with this program which is very important to the city. There has to be discussions on areas where said groups which would be adversely affected because of this program and that would depend on how the detailed plan would look like.”

 

“Debating now on the plan that was initially prepared by JICA I think would be premature at this time,” Moreno said. “Even in NEDA there are questions on the propriety of the embankment.”

 

–  I N D N J C –

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