CEBU CITY, Philippines — The Regional Development Council in Central Visayas (RDC-7) is urging the Supreme Court to assign special courts in the region for handling expropriation cases for the Right of Way (ROW) acquisition of an infrastructure project.
Cebu Business Club (CBC) President Gordon Alan “Dondi” Joseph, the Regional Infrastructure Development Committee (IDC) chairperson, said the delay in the ROW acquisition has cost millions worth of infrastructure projects in the region to be unrealized for decades.
In Luzon, particularly in the National Capital Region and Cavite, at least 11 courts have been designated for handling expropriation cases, allowing the fast track of their infrastructure projects.
The RDC-7 already requested the Supreme Court to address the issues on delays on expropriation cases in the past, but the state’s highest court only mandated the regional trial courts to handle these cases within seven days of receipt.
The Department of Public Works and Highways in Central Visayas (DPWH-7) reports that this 7-day policy is not strictly implemented by the lower courts in the region, causing a delay in the implementation of various projects in the provinces and highly urbanized cities.
“Although there is a law for some courts to act in a specific period of time, in actual sense it is not being observed, that’s the information from our legal division,” said Engineer Nonato Paylado, the head of the DPWH-7 Operations Division.
Implement 7-day policy
DPWH-7 Director Edgar Tabacon said the RDC-7 can inform the Supreme Court of this lack of compliance so that the high court can admonish the lower courts for implementing the 7-day policy.
However, League of the Municipal Mayors Cebu president, Liloan Mayor Christina Garcia-Frasco, said that it would not be wise to sow discord between the RDC-7 and the lower courts over the expropriation cases.
Instead, she suggests that the RDC-7 appeal to the trial courts to implement the 7-day policy.
Furthermore, the mayor suggests that the local government units (LGU) be given the power to advance the ROW expenses because most property owners are worried of their taxes.
The advance release of the ROW funds would expedite the expropriation process because the owners already received the amount due them.
Joseph said the RDC-7 would also recommend to the DPWH-Legal Services to consider coordinating with the LGUs for tax breaks and tax incentives to property owners as the first option for the ROW acquisition.
The RDC-7 would also support the DPWH-7’s request for the national government to release the ROW funds to speed up the implementation of the infrastructure projects.
Cebu Fifth District Representative Duke Frasco, who chairs the Visayas Development Committee in Congress, said that RDC-7 and the National Economic Development Authority in Central Visayas (NEDA-7) can draft a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the LGUs.
The MOA would allow the LGUs to release a budget, particularly using the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) funds, for ROW acquisition.
Once the MOA will be drafted, he will be endorsing this to the Visayas Development Committee in the hopes of giving the DPWH more authority to expedite the release of ROW funds.
The RDC-7 has approved all resolutions of the IDC and expressed hope for faster expropriations so that the long delayed infrastructure projects will be completed.