SM Construction on Harrison Road Violates Public Land Act

A fact-finding committee created by the Baguio City Council has disclosed anomalies in the on-going construction of the SM Mall along Harrison Road, in front of Sunshine Park in the said city.

Northern Dispatch
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VII, No. 27, August 12-18, 2007

BAGUIO CITY (246 kms. north of Manila) – A fact-finding committee created by the Baguio City Council has disclosed anomalies in the on-going construction of the SM Mall along Harrison Road, in front of Sunshine Park here.

In an initial committee hearing at the Sangguniang Panglunsod Hall here in the afternoon of Aug. 10, representatives of government agencies claim that the SM construction violated conditions as stated in their Order of Award on the area covered by Original Certificate of Title (OCT) No. 1 and Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended, otherwise known as the Public Land Act, Councilor Rocky Thomas Balisong told Nordis.

Neri Bueno, chief of the City Engineering Office, said that one of the conditions in SM’s Order of Award is compliance with the Public Land Act. Bueno also said that a builder must observe the 60-meter road right-of-way as provided by Sec. 112 of CA 141.

Bueno added that the parking space is the same road right-of-way that they had been claiming. She said she was surprised that despite the city government’s opposition citing the said provision of the law, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) nevertheless disposed of the contested area as part of SM property.

Bueno said as early as 1993, City District Engineer Arcadio Regacho had registered the city’s opposition to the DENR for the disposition of that part of Harrison road right-of-way to SM. “The opposition was never heard by the DENR,” she said.

Balisong alleged that SM allotted some 15 meters as road right-of-way. Under the law, this should be 60 meters.

It was also found out in the hearing that the DENR issued the Order of Award for the area covered by OCT 1 to SM on May 5, 1992. Among the conditions stated in the Order of Award is that any construction must start six months from the date of the award and completed 18 months from the awarding.

The condition was allegedly violated as the construction at Harrison Road only started in January this year, when SM Investment Corp. was granted a building permit by the City Building and Architecture Office (CBAO).

The CBAO representative said that SM applied for a building permit on Jan. 26, 2007 – which application was approved three days later. He added, however, that the excavation work began on the first week of that month.

Whether the CBAO is liable for granting a permit where a building stands on part of the road right-of-way was an issue not tackled in the hearing.

Before the hearing ended, lawyer Romeo Bravo of the DENR Legal Department stood up and questioned Balisong’s membership in the committee conducting the investigation. He pointed out that Balisong should instead sit and present his witnesses to prove his allegations.

Balisong shot back saying that the committee was a creation of the council and that he was included as a member. “In fact, I reiterated in the beginning that I can be objective as I am hence we continued the hearing,” he said.

The Committee was created under Councilor Isabelo Cosalan, Jr., head of the Committee on Urban Planning, Land and Housing. The members are Councilors Nicasio Aliping, Lourdes Tabanda, Balisong, and Acting Legal Officer Melchor Rabanes.

Cosalan predicts that the fact-finding hearings would take three to six months as the preliminary hearing never touched issues regarding SM’s land title. Northern Dispatch / Posted by Bulatlat

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