Councilor Acosta defends self on Davao’s ‘green space’ issue

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 18 Feb) – Davao City Councilor Mabel Sunga-Acosta was at odds with other councilors and Vice Mayor Paolo Z. Duterte, two days after she was hit for opposing the removal of the 10-percent green space provision in the 2013 Comprehensive Land-Use Plan (CLUP) and for allegedly fueling the outcry of the environmentalists even though the issue is already at the City Mayor level whether to veto the amended ordinance.

The provision in the CLUP requires developers to allot 10 percent of green space of the total land area.

“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 Tuesday.

Based on reports on Wednesday, the vice mayor was quoted as saying that he had requested for a meeting with Acosta who was allegedly still fueling the issue over the recent move of the City Council that earned the ire of local environmentalists.

On the issue that she demanded for deferment, Acosta said that councilors present during the third and final reading during the January 19 session arrived “at decisions through consensus” to defer the item.

“There were several of us, even those who voted yes to the amendment, who were huddled together on recess because there were environmental groups present in the gallery. It is a fact that their views and voices were not heard in this concern,” she said.

She recalled that there were three options considered by the plenary.

“Options discussed were, a. for a representative of the group to be given a chance to speak before the council; b. to defer the item and have a meeting with the environmental groups; c. to vote on third and final reading that day. These options were discussed freely and intelligently in that huddle. The final consensus was to defer the item,” she said.

After they were informed of the item’s deferment, she said the environmental groups then left the plenary.

“At some point I also went out to go to my office to go to the restroom. When I got back to the session hall, I was surprised that the item was being voted upon already on third and final reading, which was different from the consensus earlier,” she added.

Duterte said why would Acosta bring up the issue during third and final reading when she could have done that earlier on the second reading.

Not consulted

Acosta countered by saying 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.

Mylai Santos, director of Ecoteneo Division of the Ateneo de Davao University (ADDU), added that the council did not consult the Local Zoning Review Committee when it amended CLUP.

She added that the omission of the 10-percent green space provision threatens the wildlife and health of the Dabawenyos as this serves as a carbon sink.

Santos said the councilors’ argument that the 10-percent green space would incur cost on the investors does not hold water and asked Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to veto the amended CLUP.

The vice mayor 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 open space, 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.

‘Never been so embarrassed’

Acosta defended herself after she was accused by Duterte of not doing her job.

“In all my 50 years on earth, I have never been so embarrassed, and unjustly and unfairly accused. I did not see it coming when I was ‘reprimanded’, so to speak. I could not believe it was actually happening. I was so disillusioned and frustrated with the unworthy conduct. The crassness and absurdity of it all was a shock,” she said.

Acosta, who has been a council member for 13 years from 2001 to 2010 and 2013 until the present, said she is fully aware of the basics of the legislative process.

The lady legislator said she has no direct hold of the environmentalists protesting the council’s move.

“How could I be accused of ‘starting’ whatever? I have no control over environmental groups or advocates. They are responsible enough, and mature enough, and intelligent enough to think and act on their own. That we happened to have a similar outlook is a fateful coincidence. I just continue on from where I started a long way back. I had no intentions of painting anyone black or white. That is not my handiwork. Sound policy that puts a premium on the public’s well-being is shared by most of us,” she said.

VM okays meeting with Fr. Tabora

She said the vice mayor himself approved of the meeting with ADDU president Fr. Joel Tabora before he delivered his speech at the plenary session on Tuesday.

“For the record, it was the Vice Mayor himself who suggested in his text message to me that Fr. Tabora, and myself along with two other councilors, be the guests of the media hour before session starts. I thanked him for what I thought was a kind gesture. It was a good sign, I thought then,” she said.

Fr. Tabora delivered his speech before the City Council during the privilege hour to reiterate his stand on the removal of the 10-percent green space.

“And then there were colleagues who tried to stop Fr. Tabora from speaking. I am thankful that Councilor Militar supported me in that motion, hence Fr. Tabora was able to speak. I am also thankful to other colleagues who perhaps sympathize with me, but could not express it in public,” she said.

“The Council’s House Rules provides for rule eleven: Privilege Hour. It says any member of the council can avail of this privilege. It did not have restrictions on subject matter. Why anybody would want to stop me from availing of the Privilege Hour that would allow me and my guest to speak is questionable. That is my right,” she cited.

Acosta reiterated her stance on the omission of the 10-percent green space in the CLUP by saying that she is hopeful that stakeholders could still adopt a win-win option for both the environmentalists and the investors.

“Tax incentives for investors with green initiatives, or ‘green compliant’, could be explored, for instance. There will not be a lack of good suggestions from various sectors. A collective dream for a Davao City Green Code or Green Ordinance is also possible,” she said.