Their homes must give way to subway station, tracks
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - September 20, 2019 - 12:00am

Railway technical-geologic studies are mumbo-jumbo to most city folk. It matters not that transport officials initially disfavored the Metro Manila subway along Katipunan, Quezon City, to Food Terminal Inc., Taguig. Experts may have found the original route underneath EDSA soundest for workingmen to get to offices and jobsites. Whereas, the Katipunan alignment would only link mall after mall and cross an earthquake fault. Manilans wouldn’t care less – unless their lives directly will be disrupted. Then it becomes an issue of rights, health, safety, peace and quiet, security, livelihood, legality, and more.

Residents of United Hills Village (UHV), Parañaque, are horrified that their homes must give way to a subway station and surface tracks. Last month consultants of the Dept. of Transport and Japan International Cooperation Agency told them of the expropriation plan. A previously unannounced “Bicutan station” is to rise beside their subdivision. It will eat 70 meters inward, uproot 168 households, and lop off a third of UHV. Frantic homeowners petitioned City Hall for help. Reading my reports (see Gotcha, 11 and 13 Sep. 2019), they requested that their distress calls be brought to the attention of national officials and the public. Hopefully, they say, planners would rethink and revise the subway.

Highlights of their 16-page plea:

• They are taxpaying owners of homes of quality heavy-duty materials. Most are professionals, with school-age children. Some have been living in the neighborhood for over 50 years. They are duly registered with the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board. Residents of United Parañaque Subdivision-2 and Malugay, plus adjacent businesses can be dislocated too.

• “Bicutan station” still has no permits. Requisite hearings and consultations, under Sec. 27 of the Local Government Code, have not been made. One “Ecosys” allegedly presented it for DOTr and JICA only last Aug. 14, 2019. The original plan was for an end-station and depot at FTI in Taguig, only a kilometer away.

• Immediate adverse environment effects: soil pollution from demolition, construction wastes; earthquakes, erosion, landslides from tunneling, excavation, backfilling, stockpiling; soil contamination from leaks, accidental spills; waterway siltation from 4.4 million cubic-meter excavation; disease, land-water waste contamination from construction workforce; liquefaction in case of earthquake; damage to subterranean structures by ground shaking, ruptures; sedimentation from site clearing; flooding, lowering of groundwater from excavation, tunneling; dust, particulates during earthmoving, demolition, stockpiling; toxic fumes from vehicles and generators; noise pollution, ground vibration from construction machinery; tree toppling for clearing.

• Harm on humans: displacement, involuntary relocation of residents, businesses; potential conflicts in land, resource use with other infra-works, like DPWH’s C-6 highway construction; utility service interruptions; disturbance, loss of businesses, employment, livelihoods; worse traffic; impaired emergency services; safety and health threats from accidents, sloppy works.

• Long-term adverse effects of subway station: soil contamination from chemical leaks, spills at depot; disease, land-water contamination from increased solid wastes; damage to foundations, overlying structures by liquefaction, ground shaking, ruptures; waterway pollution from rail repairs, maintenance, increased wastewater; rain floods; earth sinking due to lowering of groundwater; dirty air from increased vehicles, generators; mental stress from low-frequency noise, ground vibration; accelerated structural fatigue, materials failure; greater demands for construction, operation, maintenance of flood controls, drainage; increased greenhouse gases from cooling systems; vulnerability to communicable diseases; high accident risks.

Expropriation of their homes is unjust, oppressive, unwarranted, arbitrary, and confiscatory, UHV residents cried. There has been no city council notice. Ecosys supposedly announced it to them as a done deal for DOTr-JICA, withholding copies of its papers and entertaining no objections or suggestions. They pointed to a nearby abandoned land and open spaces within vast FTI as alternative depot site. They sought investigation if “big-business interests” machinated Bicutan in lieu of the original end-station.

For salvation the homeowners are banking on DOTr Sec. Arthur Tugade’s policy. He has instructed that subway stations be on or beside government property. They cited a Philippine Information Agency website posting on Mar. 25, 2018 ( Entitled “Gov’t Eyes Commercial Development of Metro Subway Stations to Help Pay Off JICA Loan for Project”, it reads:

“According to DOTr, the project’s chief implementor, it has made a deliberate effort to position subway stations beside or near state property to maximize the investment returns for the government.

“DOTr Undersecretary for Railways Timothy John Batan cited, for instance, the proposed North Avenue station that will be contiguous to the Veterans Memorial Medical Center, the Katipunan station that will be built on Camp Aguinaldo property, a station at the Bonifacio Global City that will be beside a property of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority, and a station near the Air Force field at the Villamor Air Base.

“’One of the instructions of Secretary Tugade when we were finalizing the location of the subway project is to bring the stations as close as possible, if not on, government property. This is in connection with a strategy that we have been following of trying to capture value from this investment,’ Batan said at a recent press briefing.

“On concerns regarding right-of-way, which often delays the implementation of big-ticket infrastructure projects, Batan said, ‘Obviously, this would not be a major issue because subway technology involves mostly subterranean construction.’”

Whoever chose private residences as station site defied Tugade.

*      *      *

By sundown Wednesday 1,025 freed convicts beat the deadline to report back to prison. But 346 of them were not in the list of 1,914 heinous criminals. Lesser offenders who likely deserved Good Conduct Time Allowance, they were scared by the shoot-to-kill order. Their surrender is a sign of good faith. There are real persons behind each of those numbers. May the authorities separate the chaff from the grain, the recidivists from the reformed.

*      *      *

Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

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