At least a hundred landowners of a 40-hectare lot comprising Phase-3 of the Batangas Port are demanding that the provincial government free their land from a five-year moratorium.
BY DABET CASTAÑEDA
Vol. VII, No. 27, August 12-18, 2007
BATANGAS CITY (111 kms. south of Manila)- A lone nipa hut is surrounded by almost dried up fish ponds in the middle of a 40-hectare lot comprising Phase-3 of the Batangas Port.
Lolita Burog-Enriquez, heir to the owner of 22 of 40 hectares of the said land, said their family has had offers from foreign and local investors to purchase the idle land. “Gusto na namin ibenta ito para sana mapakinabangan ang kita ng mga tagapagmana ng lupa,” (We would have wanted to sell it so the heirs would benefit from the sale.) Burog-Enriquez said in an interview with Bulatlat.
The 40-hectare lot has been kept idle since 2003 when then Batangas Governor Hermilando Mandanas, who was about to end his term of office, and Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) general manager Alfonso Cusi signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) stating, in part, that only the provincial government has the right to sell the said property.
On June 12, 2003, the Batangas provincial government and the PPA entered into the said MOU in order to develop the 40-hectare property into an economic zone. The MOU states that the PPA allows the provincial government to develop this area which comprises the third phase of the Batangas Port Development Project (BPDP).
The MOU also states that the development should be facilitated within five years from its effectivity, and if not, shall “ipso facto become ineffective.”
However, private landowners of the 40-hectare property have signed a petition for the cancellation of the MOU. Signed by 84 private landowners, the petition wanted the MOU nullified as the landowners were not party to it.
Burog-Enriquez said they were not consulted by the PPA or the provincial government regarding the MOU. There were also no expropriation proceedings undertaken.
“While the subject property is delineated as port zone, as of this date, it is still privately owned,” the petition said.
Moreover, Burog-Enriquez said the property is not a reclamation area, contrary to what was stated in the MOU. “This property is privately owned, my forefathers used to live here,” the heir said, pointing to their old, dilapidated ancestral home standing in the middle of their property.
There are about a hundred private landowners who hold titles to the property while more than 300 families used to live in the area. However, the occupants had to transfer to relocation areas after the property was delineated as an economic zone.
No just compensation
Burog-Enriquez also said the private landowners have not been duly compensated for the “illegal acquisition” of their property. In a petition submitted to the Batangas Provincial Board, the landowners said they have been deprived of the fair market value of the property amounting to approximately P2 billion ($43,725,404 at an exchange rate of $1=P45.74).
Aside from not being consulted regarding the MOU, Burog-Enriquez said they were not even given tax holidays for the duration of the effectivity of the MOU. “Habang nakatiwangwang at kontrolado ng provincial government ang lupa namin, patuloy pa rin kaming nagbabayad ng buwis,” (While our land was left idle and being controlled by the provincial government, we were continuously paying the taxes for it.) she said.
For the future
Rosita Como-Perez, 57, said they were called by Mandanas for a meeting on July 10, 2003, a month after the MOU signing, to tell them that the provincial government has been tasked to develop the third phase of the Batangas Port.
Como-Perez, a relative of Burog-Enriquez, said the former governor never mentioned the MOU. Como-Perez and her family are still living in the lone hut in the middle of the 40-hectare property. “Kaya kami hindi umaalis dito dahil sakim ang gobyerno. Gusto nila sila lang ang kikita,” (We have not left the land because the government is greedy. They want that only they profit from the land.) the aging heir said.
Como-Perez has three children and eight grandchildren. She said she wants to be able to sell their property at a good price to give a better future for her grandchildren. “Ito ang magiging daan ng mga apo ko para marating ang kanilang pupuntahan. Ako hindi ko na kailangan ito. Matanda na ako,” (This will be the means by which my grandchildren will be able to realize their dreams. As for me, I don’t need the money anymore as I am already old.) Como-Perez said. (Bulatlat.com)