DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 22 Feb) – Environmental groups in Davao City were all praises after City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte vetoed the amended Comprehensive Land Use Plan and Zoning Ordinance, which integrated the 10-percent green space to the 30-percent open space provision in all land developments.
But Mary Ann Fuertes, executive director of Interface Development Interventions (IDIS), said during the Kapehan sa Dabaw at SM City they have to face yet again another hurdle, that is, whether the City Council would override the veto on Tuesday.
Fuertes said members of the Green Davao Coalition held a vigil outside Quezon Park here at 5 a.m. on Monday in what they thought would be their last resort to urge Duterte to decide in favor of their call to veto the controversial amendment.
IDIS is co-convener of the coalition.
To their surprise, she said the environmental groups found out that the veto was already signed by Duterte on Monday, the last of the10-day window for the local chief executive to veto the amendments, starting from the day the it was forwarded to the executive branch on Feb. 12.
“After flag ceremony, we distributed seedlings to all department heads. We went to the City Legal Office to update and we found out that the veto was already signed,” Fuertes said.
Last January 19, the City Council approved on third and final reading the amendment that was criticized by the Green Davao Coalition for failing to consult with the stakeholders and bypassing the Local Zoning Review Committee.
Vague, ambiguous, and ‘ultra veris’
Fuertes said they came to know that Duterte would veto the measure when an IDIS volunteer, Rey Anthony Sapid, asked the mayor after the presidential debate held at the Capitol University in Cagayan de Oro City on Sunday evening.
“There is a legal block there. It is beyond the power of the City Council to amend certain provisions of the national law. Yan ang ayaw ng City Legal Office, you will amend somehow provisions of the national law, which cannot be done because we are just local government,” he said in a voice clip forwarded to MindaNews by IDIS.
In his three-page veto message released on Monday, the mayor said the amended version was “vague and ambiguous, prejudicial to public interest and an exercise of legislative power in ultra veris (beyond the powers).”
He added that he was “particularly disturbed with the legal issues/dilemma resulting from the amendment introduced.”
“The amended Ordinance is vague and ambiguous. It is not clear whether, in the development of green spaces, this shall be done within the allotted open space of the proponent, set back areas of home lots or sidewalk strips based on PD 957 or BP220 design standards,” he said. (Presidential Decree 957 is about “regulating the sale of subdivision lots and condominiums” while Batas Pambansa 220 is about “establish[ing] and promulgat[ing] different levels of standards and technical requirements for economic and socialized housing projects in urban and rural areas.”)
“It is also prejudicial to public interest and an exercise of legislative power in ‘ultra veris’. This is manifested by the use of the modal verb ‘shall’, connoting a mandatory requirement for the turnover of these green spaces to the homeowners association for proper maintenance. There is now the unwarranted burden of maintaining the green space, passed on to the homeowners association, which exceeds the requirement of PD 1216, (which states) only parks and playgrounds of the entire open space may be donated to homeowners associations,” he stated. (Presidential Decree 1216: “Defining ‘open space’ in residential subdivisions and amending section 31 of PD No. 957 requiring subdivision owners to provide road alleys, sidewalks and reserve open space for parks or recreational use.”
‘No to override’
Ateneo de Davao University (ADDU) president Fr. Joel Tabora thanked Mayor Duterte in his Twitter account on Monday, “for listening to people on #green spaces issue in Davao.”
Asked for comment, Mylai Santos, executive director of Ecoteneo of ADDU, said the veto “is another Davao pride: a vote of good governance. A governance that is intelligent, legitimate, responsive and truly for the people.”
She urged the public to press the council not to override the veto.
“No to override. This is really for the sustainability of Davao City. We are leading in terms of the implementation good ordinances – firecracker ban and anti-smoking,” Santos said.
She also countered the previous statements of Vice Mayor Paolo Z. Duterte and Councilors Diosdado Mahipus and Bernard Al-ag that the 10-percent green space was not removed but integrated only to the 30-percent open space.
“The roads and other amenities of the developers have already taken up a big percentage. What would be left to the green space?” Santos asked.
In a press conference last February 8, Santos said a green space can be a home to wildlife animals like birds and an effective carbon sink to sequester carbon dioxide in the air.
“Our councilors might have forgotten, but we have not forgotten them… Let’s remind them,” she said.
If the council overrides the veto, Fuertes said they will resort to filing a case in the local court.
“We don’t want to resort to legal battle but we are heading that way, that being our last resort,” she said.
Santos said they will file a case, if ever, against the Council on substantive and procedural grounds.
Paolo vs Acosta
Fuertes also came to the defense of Councilor Mabel Sunga-Acosta from allegations by Vice Mayor Duterte that she was fueling the outcry of the environmentalists.
“From the start, her decision was ‘no’. Since we have the same stand, we helped each other out. It’s not that she influenced. We are a different group. We know how to think on our own. If we don’t really care for the environment, we will not take action,” she said.
“I do not deserve the treatment that I got from my colleagues. Shabby, unfair, and uncalled for, it was. It is not necessary for everybody to like me, but my position as an elected representative of the people deserves respect,” Acosta said in statement issued on February 19.
Acosta said that she was not a member of the Committee of Rules, Privileges, and Ordinances, chaired by Councilor Bernard Al-ag, and the Committee on Housing, under Councilor Victorio U. Advincula, that handled the item and that she only knew that the environmentalists were not consulted on the issue after the second reading.
“I did not know that the views and voices of environmental groups were not heard at all the whole time. I did not know that they were not given the chance to participate in the legislative process. I was as surprised as they were,” she said.
30% open space, no more green space
Vice Mayor Duterte said it was stated in the revised CLUP that the green space provision was not deleted but rather incorporated only in the 30-percent open space.
Acosta objected to such move because she does not want the green space to be incorporated in the 30 percent, as this area is allotted for roads, drainage, water and energy facilities, community facilities, amenities “that may have been promised by the developer, like club house or multipurpose hall, gym, basketball court, parks, playground.”
“In the 30-percent open space, a large part of it is already eaten up by roads and drainage. Only a fraction of it would be left for community facilities for homeowners,” she said.
The mayor said the amended provision was vague, ambiguous, and ultra veris, which means beyond power of local legislative department to override 30-percent green space provision as provided for in the national law.
Under the amended ordinance, Section 13 states that “for land development projects within the City of Davao which are socio condition of roads, streets, bridges, public buildings, and other public works under their control of supervision.”
“Thus, the amended measure unnecessarily makes the City Government of Davao liable for the damages that may arise from the negligence of homeowners association or their representatives. In such an event, the City will be forced to disburse public funds to cover the indemnity for damages resulting from the acts of the homeowners associations or its representatives to which it has no control over,” he stated.