The 93-1 deal is unlikely to push thru

OFF TANGENT - Aven Piramide (The Freeman) - September 19, 2015 - 10:00am

The figures, 32 hectares, one billion three hundred million pesos, and another five hundred million pesos that were reported by the newspapers, few days ago, are mind-boggling. I am talking of the supposed deal between the local government units of the Province of Cebu and the City of Cebu that involves the parcels of province-owned land that are scattered in the various barangays of the city.

Despite the recent brouhaha of the attempts of the leaders of both local governments to arrive at a supposed conclusion of this thorny social problem, I wrote, also in this column, not very long ago, my dire forecast. I said that the cherished settlement was not going to be accomplished within the terms of Gov. Hilario Davide III and Mayor Michael L. Rama.

According to the reports, the provincial government claimed that there remain at least 32 hectares of its land where the present occupants either failed or refused to avail of Ordinance 93-1. I surmise that the figure 32 hectares came from someone close to the governor. To recall, that ordinance, passed in the administration of Governor Vicente de la Serna, allowed settlers to pay the lots they were occupying within a certain period of time and for an almost give-away price.  Only few families availed of the beneficial program and those who did not take advantage of the ordinance were reported as those now occupying the 32 hectares.

I have long admitted that my memory is, by reason of senior age, a bit dimmed but I must insist that it was the first time that the actual land area of 32 hectares was ever mentioned in the course of the protracted negotiation. All along, we heard that the total area of the entire property was 55 hectares. In other words, about 23 hectares were sold to the settlers who already paid to the province.

If the province wants the city to pay P 1,300,000,000.00, worth of a property in the South Road Properties in addition to the P500,000,000.00 already offered by the city and this is for the whole 32 hectares, the total package is P1,800,000,000.00. After a little calculation, the cost is something like fifty six million pesos for every hectare or about P 5,600.00 per square meter.

This price, per square meter, is, in my recollection, way above the value contemplated by Ordinance No. 93-1. Were not the settlers required to pay something like P 3,000.00 per square meter then? In other words, this pricing of P5,600 per square meter compared to that of 1993, is not cheap. It is very expensive. If the city were to pay it to the province, it becomes onerous on the part of the city and decidedly a bonanza for the province.

Even then, if the city were engaged in a straight real estate deal, this price is unbelievably barato. By "straight real estate deal," I mean that after buying it, the city can demolish the houses built on the land and after clearing the property, sell it to developers. In Mabolo, Lahug, and Luz, the current buying prices are something anywhere near forty thousand pesos per square meter.

But, if the original contemplated price of P3,000 were that barato, how come the occupants, dwelling on these allegedly remaining 32 hectares, have not completed the sale arrangements contained in Ordinance 93-1 and later amendments? My friends in the real estate industry who studied Ordinance 93-1 offered many reasons why so many settlers have not paid but I am not going to print them here because they are unkind to the settlers and derogatory to the leadership of the province.

This supposed deal between the city and the province is a solution to the social problem of urban housing. The remaining 32 hectares will not be sold by the city to any developer. It will be allotted to the settlers and they will be asked to pay the city, at least the city's acquisition cost of P5,600.00 plus some cost of money if the payment is done in installments covering say 25 years. However considering their inability to pay the province a much cheaper price, pursuant to Ordinance 93-1, I doubt if the city will ever get back its investment.

When these parameters will be presented to the city residents, we will expect a protest. It will be unfair to the majority of the city residents, nearing a million, to shoulder such a huge fund for allocation to so few a people numbering less than five thousand families! And if the deal does not push thru, someone will put the blame on the mayor!

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