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Metro

DOJ to go after ‘rich’ waterway squatters

Edu Punay - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Justice is set to file charges against owners of “private and business establishments” that put up illegal structures along the San Juan and Tullahan Rivers, DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima said yesterday.

De Lima refused to name the individuals until formal charges are filed within two weeks. She said they violated the three-meter easement rule under both the Water Code and the Civil Code.

“Waterways are properties of public dominion and therefore cannot be covered by private ownership. We discovered that these private properties encroached on the three-meter buffer zone. It is prohibited in the law,” she said.

Apart from filing complaints, De Lima said an inter-agency legal team would also seek the cancellation of the land titles issued to the owners.

She said a team composed of the DOJ, Office of the Solicitor General, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, Land Registration Authority and the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel will also look into liabilities of several local government units (LGUs) on the waterways obstructions.

“That’s up next. We are now identifying the entities involved. For now, we want to set an example against private property owners who put up illegal structures along waterways,” she said.

De Lima added that their campaign against LGUs, private individuals and syndicates involved in “professional squatting” is pursuant to the landmark Supreme Court ruling in March 2011 for government agencies led by MMDA “to demolish illegal structures and dwellings along riverbanks and waterways connected to Manila Bay until Dec. 31, 2015.”

The DOJ chief said their move to prosecute those responsible for obstructions along waterways came from a directive of President Aquino during their Cabinet meeting last month.

Clogged waterways have been blamed for the perennial flood problem affecting many areas in Metro Manila during the rainy season.

National government figures showed there are about 100,000 informal settlers in Metro Manila with 60,000 of them living near waterways. Of this number, 20,000 are located near the government’s eight priority waterways.

Apart from San Juan and Tullahan Rivers, the six other priority waterways are Estero Tripa de Gallina, Maricaban Creek, Manggahan Floodway, Pasig River, Estero de Maypajo and Estejo de Sunog Apo.

DE LIMA

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

ESTERO TRIPA

LAND REGISTRATION AUTHORITY AND THE CHIEF PRESIDENTIAL LEGAL COUNSEL

MANGGAHAN FLOODWAY

MANILA BAY

METRO MANILA

SAN JUAN AND TULLAHAN RIVERS

WATERWAYS

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