By loejan anudon
(L-R) D.E. Noel Diaz, Atty. Rex Paredes and Atty. Clarence Rimando
A team from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) headed by the District Engineer Noel Diaz and Engr. Andy Nicer met with Urdaneta City Administrator, Mr. Ronald San Juan, on July 7, 2012 at the latter’s office for possible recourse to fast track the long stalled completion of the pedestrian overpass in Urdaneta City. Also along with the district engineer were Atty. Rex Paredes and Atty. Clarence Rimando from the DPWH legal office, former board member Dioniso Antiniw and a representative of the Dela Cruz family who sold to the city government a parcel of land.
A meeting of the DPWH officials with the presence of a representative of Congresswoman Kimi Cojuangco before the meet-up with the city officials at the old city hall.
The group with Engineer Diaz and the legal counsels for the DPWH first met at a resort in Urdaneta City to orient everyone of the pending issues that largely affect the overall delay of the pedestrian overpass project that former congressman Mark Cojuangco instigated during his term that was carried on by his successor, Congresswoman Kimi Cojuangco. The long wait for its completion is generating negative comments that roused alarm to the city officials to immediately call for the meeting.
It is the urgent request of Congresswoman Kimi Cojuangco to finish the project on the double; it also needs the city to do its share on the effort being the recipient of a state-of-the-art pedestrian overpass.
The DPWH is all set to complete the project but the need to extend the stairs situated at the eastern part of the national road which is also directly at the opposite side of the168 commercial building requires the acquisition of the adjoining lot at its southern end. The city officials were able to convince the owner, a certain Mr. Fernandez, to swap his land to an equal expanse purchased by the city that is also close to the area. However, it is the strict demand of the owner that he will only acquiesce to the deal once the land to be swapped is already titled and bearing his name as the legitimate owner.
At the start of the meeting, the District Engineer was given the floor to open with a detailed explanation on the much extended delay of the project; with part of the hindrance eventually owing to the city’s inadvertent misdeal over the purchase of a certain portion of land that is intended for swapping.
The seller’s representative strongly reiterated that the plotted portion indicating the property of the Dela Cruz that the city purchased is erroneous. According to him, it has encroached to an adjacent area (in its eastern half) that is not the seller’s property. However, it belongs to their relatives who are currently living abroad. Approximately one sixth of the total lot area has been charged to the other property that impelled the owner not to sign the subdivision plan for the segregation of the purchased but contentious lot. The representative pointed that the missing portion is currently where the national highway is situated which is at the western edge. It means that part of the land that the city purchased is already a part of the existing national road. “You cannot just get a property without just compensation!” he said referring to the encroached parcel of land.
Several options were suggested during the meeting and one is to buy the encroached area. However, the representative warned that the property belongs to several owners who are scattered in different countries. He also assured of a negative result if the city only aims to buy the encroached portion and not the whole area but still, it will pass through a very lengthy period of processing and convincing all the owners to sign.
Previous effort to convince Mr. Fernandez to swap his land to what remains of the Dela Cruz property after deducting the encroached portion was made but it was a futile attempt. In closing, the district engineer motioned for an expropriation proceeding over the land of Mr. Fernandez where all agreed.
At later information, the District Engineer told to the secretary of Congresswoman Kimi Cojuangco that a letter has already been sent to Mr. Fernandez informing him of the expropriation procedure that the DPWH will be undertaking.