durianburgdavao MINDANAON E W S B L O G NOVEMBER 8, 2007
ARE YOU FOR BIG BUSINESS?
MYVIEWS by ROGER M. BALANZA
The series of articles we wrote—published in the Mindanao Insider Daily and subsequently carried by durianburg—about two high-end housing subdivisions in a landslide-prone area in Shrine Hills in Matina, Davao City apparently have touched the sensibilities of some people for very clear reasons that could only be described as self-interest.
In particular, a Davao City councilor called me up to express his dislike for the articles that detailed fears of residents in housing projects below the hill about the prospect of their being swallowed by landslides. The fear has basis.No less than Noel Angeles, senior officer of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) testified in committee hearings at the Davao City Council that the area has been identified in a Terrain Analysis and Study conducted by MGB and the City Planning and Development Office (CPDO) as geologically hazardous and prone to landslide.
In his testimony, Angeles even charged Crown Asia and the Consunji firm of corporate arrogance for not consulting with MGB before buying the project site—that is the scene of an old landslide.
The articles I wrote was not just about potential landslides swallowing houses and killing people below the Shrine Hill or about massive floods in subdivisions triggered by development works in the new projects.
I was trying to warn that Shrine Hills is a Cherry Hill tragedy in the making if nothing is done to stop Crown Asia and Consunji.
The councilor, a friend, told me that I should not be writing such kind of alarming reports that he said could send a wrong signal to investors about the local media or the city government (in this case the Davao City Council committee on housing, rural and urban development chaired by Arnolfo Ricardo Cabling, which is hearing the complaints of the subdivision residents) being unfriendly to them.
I would not wonder why he took pains to censure me about the reports. The answer comes from the horse mouth: he said I should be careful because the high-end subdivisions are owned by big investors.
The two high-end housing projects are owned by Crown Asia (30 hectares) of Senator Manny Villar and David M. Consunji Development (30 hectares).
Concern about Davao City’s image being spoiled by reports deemed business-unfriendly by some quarters I may take with a grain of salt, even if I have a reason to be an alarmist as in the case of the Shrine Hills housing projects.
But I would not take it lightly when some people flex muscles to pressure media into dumping facts about Shrine Hills as a future tragedy—for reasons that smell graft.
The call comes at the same time that rumors spread about high-end subdivisions in the Talomo area—under which the city aquifer, the source of the Dabawenyos; precious drinking water, lies—are dangling million-peso bribes to have their applications approved by the Davao City Council.
The call not to report about landslides in housing projects owned by Mr. Villar and Mr. Consunji—certified as not fit for housing projects by MGB—also hurt as it comes as hundreds of homeless urban poor residents wait for eternity for approval by the city council of their applications for locational clearances for socialized housing—which have been sleeping the sleep of the dead in the Davao City Council.
Sometime ago, an urban poor activist handed to me what appeared to be a privilege speech that a city councilor would deliver during a regular session in defense of the plight of the home poor.
I am not at liberty to divulge the name of the activist or the city councilor who would take up the cudgels for the urban poor.
Nevertheless, for the consumption of my councilor friend who is a friend of big-time high-end developers, the never-been-delivered speech reads:
ARE WE ANTI-POOR?
LAST WEEK, MR. PRESIDENT, THIS AUGUST BODY APPROVED THE DAVAO CITY SHELTER CODE. THE URBAN POOR SECTOR WITH THOUSANDS OF HOMELESS FAMILIES WHO WOULD BENEFIT FROM THIS CODE WAS PROFUSE IN THANKING US AND THE HEAVENS FOR THIS LANDMARK LEGISLATION. AS ONE OF THE AUTHORS OF THE SHELTER CODE,
I AM SUPPOSED TO SAY THAT THIS PRO-POOR ORDINANCE HAVE PROVEN THAT THE MEMBERS OF THIS CITY COUNCIL HAVE NOTHING BUT COMPASSION FOR THOSE HAVE LESS IN LIFE.
UNFORTUNATELY, MR. PRESIDENT, ON THE DAY THAT WE APPROVED THE CODE, SOME MEMBERS OF THIS COUNCIL DEMOLISHED THIS PRO-POOR AGENDA WITH THEIR POSITIONS ON APPLICATIONS FOR RECLASSIFICATION OF RELOCATION AREAS FOR TWO URBAN POOR ASSOCIATIONS.
IT IS IRONIC, MR. PRESIDENT, THAT ON THE VERY SAME DAY THAT OUR URBAN POOR REACHED A CLIMAX IN THEIR EXPECTATIONS FOR CONCRETE STEPS ON OUR PART TO TRULY ADDRESS THE PLIGHT OF THE HOMELESS—WITH THE APPROVAL OF THE SHELTER CODE—SOME OF US HAVE THE INSENSITIVITY TO THROW A MONKEY WRENCH TO TWO PIECES OF LEGISLATION THAT WOULD PROVIDE A ROOF OVER THE HEADS OF ABOUT 500 FAMILIES FROM THE HAPLESS POOR SECTOR.
I AM REFERRING, MR. PRESIDENT, TO LEGISLATIVE ITEM NO. 153 PERTAINING TO SOCIALIZED HOUSING OF GOLDEN HILLS VILLAGE IN PANACAN, BUNAWAN DISTRICT; AND TO LEGISLATIVE ITEM NO. 66 WHICH PERTAINS TO SOCIALIZED HOUSING OF GENERALAO VILLAGE ASSOCIATION IN INDANGAN, BUHANGIN.
IF WE MAY RECALL, MR. PRESIDENT, THE FIRST ITEM WAS INITIALLY APPROVED AND THEN RECALLED AT THE INSTANCE OF TWO HONORABLE COUNCILORS IN A MOVE THAT COULD ONLY BE CALLED AS ANTI-POOR. THE SECOND ITEM, MR. PRESIDENT, SUFFERED A SIMILAR IGNOMINOUS FATE BY FAILING TO GET THE REQUIRED THREE-FOURTH VOTE BECAUSE SOME COUNCILORS IN AN APPARENT SHOW OF UTTER INDEFFERENCE TO THE PLIGHT OF OUR URBAN POOR, CHOSE TO DISAPPEAR LIKE THIN AIR FROM THIS AUGUST CHAMBER DURING THE VOTING.
MR. PRESIDENT, LAST WEEK BEFORE WE STARTED DELIBERATION ON THESE TWO ITEMS—WHICH ARE ON THIRD AND FINAL READING—I BEGGED THAT THESE ITEMS BE APPROVED BECAUSE THEIR BENEFICIARIES HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR ITS APPROVAL FOR MONTHS. I BEGGED MR. PRESIDENT THAT THESE TWO ITEMS BE TACKLED FIRST AT THE TIME AS WE HAVE THEN THE RARE NUMBER—21 HONORABLE COUNCILORS PRESENT—TO MUSTER THE VOTE TO APPROVE THESE APPLICATIONS.
THESE SOCIALIZED HOUSING APPLICATIONS WERE IN THE CALENDAR FOR THIRD READING FOR FOUR SESSIONS ALREADY. THE BENEFICIARIES OF THESE PROJECTS FOR WEEKS HAVE BEEN ATTENDING OUR SESSIONS—TO WITNESS OUR APPROVAL—IN A VIGIL FULL OF PREGNANT EXPECTATIONS TO SEE THE DAY WHEN THEY WOULD BE LIBERATED FROM THE BONDAGE OF HOMELESSNESS.
MR. PRESIDENT, I APPEALED THEN IN BEHALF OF THE HUNDREDS OF FAMILIES DISPLACED BY FLOODS IN BACACA, THE HUNDREDS OF FAMILIES WHO LOST THEIR HOMES TO THE GIANT WAVES OF BUCANA, FOR THOSE WHO WERE UPROOTED FROM THEIR FORMER ABODES BY DEMOLITION, AND THOSE WHO LOOK UP TO THE CITY GOVERNMENT FOR HOUSING ASSISTANCE—WHO WOULD BENEFIT FROM THESE SOCIALIZED HOUSING PROJECTS.
FOR THE RECORD MR. PRESIDENT, THESE HOUSING PROJECTS CAME TO REALITY WITHOUT ANY FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE FROM THE CITY GOVERNMENT. POOR AS THEY ARE, THESE HARDY URBAN POOR MEMBERS LABORED TO RAISE FUNDS AND BORROW MONEY TO BUY THESE RELOCATION SITES. ALL THEY NEEDED IS FOR US IS TO LEGITIMIZE THEIR PROJECT WITH A SIMPLE GRANT OF RECLASSIFICATION OF THE SITES.
LAST WEEK, MR. PRESIDENT, THE APPROVAL OF THE REQUEST FOR RECLASSIFICATION UNDER LEGISLATIVE ITEM NO. 153 PERTAINING TO SOCIALIZED HOUSING OF GOLDEN HILLS VILLAGE IN PANACAN, BUNAWAN DISTRICT—AFTER BEING INITIALLY APPROVED—WAS RECALLED BECAUSE TWO HONORABLE MEMBERS OF THIS AUGUST BODY QUESTIONED THE VOTES. I WOULD NOT MENTION THEIR NAMES. I WILL GIVE TO THE URBAN POOR SECTOR ITSELF THE HONOR OF JUDGING THEM FOR THEIR ACTIONS. BUT RECORDS OF THIS COUNCIL WILL SHOW THAT A MEMBER OF THIS AUGUST BODY HAD THE APPROVAL RECALLED BECAUSE HE WAS VOTING AGAINST THE PROJECT BEING NOT READY TO VOTE ON ITEM NO. 153. RECORDS WILL ALSO SHOW THAT ANOTHER MEMBER OF THIS COUNCIL ALSO HAD THE TEMERITY TO ASK IF THE ITEM NEEDED URGENT ACTION, IN UTTER IGNORANCE OF THE FACT THAT THE BENEFICIARIES OF THESE TWO PROJECTS HAVE AGONIZED FOR MONTHS IN WAIT FOR OUR APPROVAL OF THE RECLASSIFICATION.
THE SADDEST PART IN THIS SAD EPISODE IN THE LIFE OF OUR URBAN POOR, MR. PRESIDENT, IS THAT RECORDS IN THIS COUNCIL WOULD SHOW THAT THESE HONORABLE MEMBERS WHO DERAILED THESE PRO-POOR PROJECTS ARE MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE ON HOUSING, RURAL AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT, WHO SIGNED THE COMMITTEE REPORTS APPROVING THE PROJECTS. THE SECOND ITEM—LEGISLATIVE ITEM NO. 66 WHICH PERTAINS TO SOCIALIZED HOUSING OF GENERALAO VILLAGE ASSOCIATION IN INDANGAN, BUHANGIN—AS RECORDS WOULD SHOW DIED A DEATH THAT CAN ONLY BE BLAMED ON OUR LACK OF ENTHUSIASM—AS INDICATED BY THE MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE FROM THIS CHAMBER AT VOTING TIME—WHEN WE ARE NEEDED TO VOTE ON SOCIALIZED HOUSING PROJECTS.
THIS LACK OF INTEREST ON PRO-POOR LEGISLATION IS A SAD CONTRAST TO THE SPEED WITH WHICH SOME OF US RAISE THEIR HANDS TO VOTE ON HIGH-END SUBDIVISIONS OR BIG BUSINESS SEEKING RECLASSIFICATION, WHILE WE BECOMING SCARCE WHEN THE URBAN POOR CRIES FOR HELP. NEVERTHELESS, MR. PRESIDENT, THE TWO ITEMS ARE IN TODAY’S CALENDAR AFTER I PLEADED—FOR THE SAKE OF OUR URBAN POOR—FOR RECONSIDERATION LAST WEEK.
I HOPE TODAY’S SESSION WOULD NOT END WITH THE URBAN POOR GOING HOME IN FRUSTRATION AND ANGUISH AT HAVING VOTED CITY COUNCILORS WHO HAVE NO HEART FOR THE HOMELESS. ONCE AGAIN, I APPEAL TO MY HONORABLE COLLEAGUES, MR. PRESIDENT, THAT THESE TWO ITEMS BE TREATED WITH URGENCY AND FAVORABLE ACTION—FOR THE SAKE OF OUR HOMELESS URBAN POOR.