Some 1,200 families/structure owners and approximately 4,800 individuals in Damayang Lagi, along E. Rodriguez Avenue in Quezon City are currently threatened with dislocation from their homes if the government’s mixed use plan for the area will be implemented. Some of the residents there had built their homes on that land in 1960’s and 1970’s.
In the name of development, profit maximization, additional revenues for the city, and for aesthetic reason, the Quezon City government under Mayor Sonny Belmonte plans to transform the 21,000 square meter-Damayang Lagi into a commercial and residential site. A mixture of permanent and semi-permanent structures of urban poor or informal settlers are currently erected in that site.
Commercial building will be constructed in the area along E. Rodriguez Avenue while the medium rise buildings (MRBs) for residential units will be built behind the commercial buildings or in the inner areas.
Damayang Lagi as a prime commercial and residential site
Damayang Lagi land is owned by the Department of Finance (DoF) through its Privatization and Management Office (PMO). It used to be the Magdalena Estate that was used as loan collateral (?) to the Development Bank of the Philippines in the 70’s. But it was foreclosed by the bank in 1977. There were several attempts to redeem the land, but all these failed. The DoF’s valuation of the land when this was bid out in December 1997 was PhP 23,000/sq.m.
The area was declared by the DoF as Area for Priority Development (APD) consistent with Ferdinand Marcos’ Presidential Decree 2060 which identified Damayang Lagi as one of the priority areas for development in Quezon City. In fact, it was the 10th priority area then during the time of Marcos. The land was later classified under the Asset Privatization Trust (APT) during the Aquino administration, which targets various lands for disposal to generate additional revenue for the government.
There may be some irregularities/questions with regard to the land classification of Damayang Lagi which may affect the QC government’s plan for the area. From 1970’s until 2001, Damayang Lagi had been classified as a residential land. However, in 2001, under Mayor Belmonte, it was classified as a commercial land under zoning ordinance or land use plan of Quezon City.
The community and the Barangay Council oppose the commercial land classification of Damayang Lagi. In effect, the whole community of Damayang Lagi is vehemently opposed to the commercial classification of their land by the Quezon City government.
However, the communtiy believes that their will was overpowered by the influential Chamber of Real Estate and Builders’ Association (CREBA). In pursuing its opposition to the reclassification of Damayang Lagi from residential to commercial, the Barangay Council of Damayang Lagi passed a resolution in 2005 seeking the classification of the land to be reverted to its original classification as residential land. Councilor Intong sponsored this resolution at the City Council, but the Committee where the resolution was referred to has still not acted on the resolution.
Intensifying Community Protest
After three years, the affected community revived its opposition to the impending demolition of their houses due to the zoning ordinance of Quezon City which reclassified their land as commercial. In fact, several groups have emerged to pursue the protest against the plan to implment the mixed use of the land as commercial and residential sites. These groups are asserting their right to be there, where they grew up and have families of their own, and most especially their right to a dignified life which include a decent housing for them.
These groups include the National Urban Poor Coalition (NUPCO) members in the area – Umalab Ka, Pagkakaisa ng mga Naninirahan sa Tabing Ilog (PANATA), Damayang Lagi Muslim Community, Nagbubuklod sa Damayang Lagi (NAGBUBUKLOD), and Nagkakaisang Samahan sa Damayang Lagi (NASADALA).
Task Force ON-SITE (Development)
In April 2008, a new alliance called Task Force On-Site (TF ON-SITE) was formed to pursue the on-site development position. Its members include PANATA, DL Muslim Community, NAGBUBUKLOD, NASADALA, and the Barangay Council. The Barangay Development Council and the Chair of the Committee on Urban Poor of the Barangay Council who is also the president of PANATA act as co-coordinators. NUPCO sub-area coordinator Noel Cano of Umalab Ka is the adviser of PANATA and NASADALA.
TF ON-SITE opposes the mixed use plan of the city government. The group anticipates that the plan will result in costly, thus unaffordable housing for its members. Also under said plan, their houses, in which many have already invested a lot, will be demolished.
The alliance in stead demands an on-site, “as is, where is” development in Damayang Lagi. Moreover, TF ON-SITE members have expressed willingness to pay for the land just to have a security of tenure in the area. The medium rise buildings (MRB) option is not being entertained by the residents because this is believed to be used to ease them out because of the payment cost that many of them may not be able to afford. Besides, these residents assert that they have long been structure owners in the area, thus they have the right to stay there.
Meanwhile, Home Insurance Guarantee Corporation (HIGC) proposes to have an off-site relocation for the affected community in order to pursue the mixed use of land project in Damayang Lagi. The PMO (owner of the land) and the Quezon City government (as developer) have ongoing talks for the so-called development of Damayang Lagi. The Asian Development Bank supports this plan through its Metro Manila Urban Settlement Project (?). The city government had conducted a census on November 2007, in coordination with some people’s organizations (?) in the area, to determine the actual number of occupants and to have an economic survey there as well. PMO and ADB are expected to finalize the plan and present it to Mayor Belmonte in June this year. Belmonte targets to complete the project before his term of office ends in 2010.
Approximately 16,000 families in the North and East Triangles and hundreds of employees of the Veterans Memorial Medical Center and Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife are presently facing the threat of demolition/displacement as both the national and local government transform said areas totaling 250 hectares into central business district (CBD). This project has been called by the World Bank “as the center of gravity of economic developments in Metro Manila in the coming years.”
The government’s rationale for the QC-CBD project also dubbed as the “Triangle Park” is premised on the maximization and so-called best use of the land. The rationale are: QC has large parcels of land; it is highly accessible from other directions; ideal/conducive site for regional commercial/retail centers; and presence of integrated open space network; and the prospects of easing metropolitan jobs-housing imbalance; and that this urban development model can serve as a basic guide for the government to use in creating more areas of competitive advantage serving as hubs of intense economic growth in different areas nationwide.
The plan is to organize the CBD into five distinct commercial/residential/ recreational Districts:
Triangle Exchange is envisioned to have the highest densities of the Triangle Park. It will have commercial and residential establishments fully integrated with the transit facilities, providing the best regional links and commuter access.
Residences at Veterans will be a mixed-use community with a residential focus. It will have a mix of housing, from high-rise condominiums to medium and lower density dwellings. Residents will have the advantage of having expansive parks nearby.
Downtown Hub will have institutional locators (medical, training, science, etc.) integrated with commercial and residential developments.
Emporium will focus on information and technology activities.
Commons will consist of a park with cultural, recreational, entertainment and amenity focus.
This P3-billion QC-CBD project began as early as 2002 with the issuance of Executive Order No. 106 creating the tripartite body called the North Triangle Development Committee that will oversee the development process of QC-CBD. Specifically, the Committee is tasked to study and resolve the problem of security of tenure of the residents in North Triangle – a 37-hectare property of the National Housing Authority(NHA) that is leased to the Robinsons Land Corporation. Informal settler families including members of Kasama Pilipinas, an affiliate of the National Urban Poor Coalition (NUPCO), are occupying approximately 16 hectares of said property. The North Triangle Development Committee consists of the Mayor of Quezon City as Chair while the members are the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) Chair, one representative from the Resident Organization/Associations, representative from the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP), and the representative from the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC).
The area to be covered by QC-CBD was later expanded while the name and composition of the body tasked to define and implement the plan was changed by EO 620 issued by Gloria Arroyo on 4 May 2007. The EO mandates the “rationalization and speeding up of the development of the East and North Triangles, and the Veterans Memorial Area of Quezon City, as a well-planned, integrated and environmentally balanced mixed-use development model.” It also transformed the North Triangle Development Committee into the Urban Triangle Development Commission (Tri-Dev Commission) and shrank the composition of said body from five to three members – a representative from the Office of the QC Mayor as chairman, and the General Manager of NHA and representative from the Office of the President as members – easing out the residents’/people’s organizations and the government agencies where the public particularly the poor/marginalized are represented such as NAPC and PCUP.
Notably, while EO 620 recognizes the economic significance of the East and North Triangle areas, the informal settlers here are being taken into account in the development of the QC-CBD plan. EO 620 states that “the market prospects of the East and North Triangles are significant, thereby convincing international development and financing institutions like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank to fund. In fact, the WB is funding, the development of a framework plan as well as a master plan for the development of these triangles into a highly integrated transportation, environment, commercial, and residential model.”
Apparently, the study by WB is a community-driven development framework wherein the informal settlers in the area are considered in the development of QC-CBD. The following vision, considerations, and recommendations are believed to be contained in said study:
The overall vision of the QC-CBD is to have a CBD that asserts the role of Quezon City in the metropolitan and national economy and recognize it as a high value asset which a) contributes and provides resources for local government; b) presents a model urban development; and c) promotes urban renewal and development.
The following are some activities to be considered to initiate full development of QC-CBD:
• Land consolidation and adjustment
• Additional entry and exit points to improve internal and circulation/accessibility
• Phased and selective relocation of informal settlers; enhance residential environment; improve informal settlers onsite conditions
• Selective reconfiguration or relocation of institutional facilities.
• Reconfiguration of parks to improve access and visibility
• Phased development including existing plans, legal constraints, value priming and infrastructure requirements.
Initial recommendations with regard to the informal settlers:
1. On-site land sharing and medium rise building (MRB). There are two options here:
a. a) there will be no reduction in land area currently occupied by informal settlers and MRBs that can accommodate 485 units, but only for 11,650 families, will be built in the 23.3 hectares of land area. The total cost estimate for this is P8.4 billion equivalent to the value of 28.1 hectare of land (P300M/hectare); and
b. b) reduction in land area from 23.3 to 15 hectares. This will require larger offsite development of around 15-51 hectares of land and 318 MRBs offsite will have to be built. Cost estimate for this is approximately P8.6 billion which is equal to the value of 28.1 hectare of land. Under this option, some 8.3 hectares (equivalent to 41% of on-site and off-site development costs) of CBD area will be available for commercial/mixed use.
2. In-city relocation using CMP and LGU counterpart for land development and third party source for housing and on-site development financing.
3. Relocation to nearby cities with fair compensation packages.
The subsequent Executive Order 620-A issued on 11 September 2007 and which amended EO 620 still cited the WB study on the “Preparation of a Comprehensive Framework Plan for the Development of a Central Business District in Quezon City” to be included in the review, evaluation, and integration of already available urban development plans.
Obviously, the National Government has also shown great interest in this project as EO 620-A not only expanded further the areas covered by the QC-CBD to include the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife, but also the Tri-Dev Commission’s functions and composition.___ HUDCC is included again in the Commission as Chair, making the representative from the Office of the Mayor as Co-chair, while the representatives from the NHA and the Office of the President remained as members.
Another glaring amendment in EO 620 that is contained in EO 620-A is the inclusion of Tri-Dev Commission’s function to “formulate a viable resettlement program for qualified informal settler families in the 250-hectare QC-CBD project area.” This shows that the intention of Tri-Dev Commision is to relocate the affected residents rather than exhaust/develop the plan for mixed use of the land.
The San Roque Community Center-North Triangle Alliance, Inc., an affiliate member of Kasama Pilipinas and composed of 16 local organizations with a total of approximately 3,000 members presently residing in Sitio San, Roque, Bagong Pag-asa, Quezon City, had intensified its campaign in 2005 for mixed use/on-site development which the residents started demanding for as early as 2000. The Alliance had already presented its proposals/recommendations to the concerned agencies and had conducted initial mass actions in the past years. But none of its recommendations have so far been considered by the Tri-Dev Commission.