Davao homeowners to DOTr: Railway will make us live ‘along the riles’

MCEHAI president Jesito Villamor

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/25 February) – Members of Monteritz Classic Estates Homeowners Association Inc. (MCEHAI) has asked the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to consider the “unquantifiable emotional cost” on their part if the agency pushes through with the planned railway alignment that will put their homes “under the riles” (under the rails).

Speaking at Kapehan sa Dabaw on Monday, MCEHAI president Jesito V. Villamor borrowed the title of the popular television comedy show in the 1990s, “Home Along Da Riles,” to describe what their community would like if the DOTr would insist on building a viaduct over their community as part of the 102-kilometer railway path traversing Tagum, Davao and Digos cities.

Villamor said they were not consulted about the latest plan.

The viaduct will pass “over the roofs of our homes” in phase 1 of Monteritz, which has 40 homeowners and 67 lot owners, he said.

He said the residents are not opposing the project but are questioning the abrupt changes to the alignment, which now passes through their subdivision.

He said the initial plan presented to homeowners in October 2018 indicated the path would traverse the soon-to-be-developed Town Plaza, located just outside Monteritz.

Villamor said they learned from the DOTr in a meeting at Monteritz last January 22 that the “initial” alignment had been dropped in favor of one that would pass through the subdivision, specifically over Fitzgerald Street in Monteritz.

On the same day, the board of MCEHAI passed a resolution objecting to the “alignment of the Tagum-Davao Digos railway project, which alignment will pass through within the premises of phase 1.”

Ang masama pa nito naririnig namin may sementeryo na iniwasan in respect of the dead. Kung nagawang respetuhin yung mga patay bakit hindi yung buhay? (What is worse, we have heard that they avoided the cemetery in respect of the dead. If they can respect the dead, why can they not do that to the living?)” he said.

Since no consultation happened on the latest alignment, he said they forced their way into the February 21 committee hearing at the City Council of Davao to express their concerns directly to DOTr and representative from the National Economic Development Authority in Davao Region.

“Can you imagine living in a subdivision where the train passes by above you every six minutes. Makakatulog ka ba dyan (Can you still sleep)?” he said.

He said the developer UrbanEast Developments Inc. can still redesign the structure of the Town Plaza to accommodate the plan of the DOTr while residents can no longer have that similar chance as they already have invested their “hard earned income to build” their houses.

“We have so many retirees and elderlies whose spouses are sick,” Villamor said.

He said they would have accepted the DOTr proposal if there is no other option where to locate the railway path but added the agency has many other choices since the latest alignment is already the fifth option.

DOTr Assistant Secretary Eymard Eje told reporters after the committee hearing on Thursday with the city councilor Jesus Joseph P. Zozobrado III, chair of the committee on public works and vice chair of the committee on transportation, and affected stakeholders on February 21 that the latest alignment would cause the least impact.

He assured the homeowners that their concerns would be raised with Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade.

Eje said the latest alignment will remain but with “due considerations with the issues and concerns raised earlier.”

He said the DOTr will call for another meeting to update the homeowners.

But Villamor told the DOTr: “They are computing the quantifiable cost but ours, we are looking at the emotional cost that cannot be quantified because imagine the 40 owners and 67 lot owners whose emotions are unquantifiable.”

“Ito yung hard earned money na binili dun sa subdivision na yun (this is the hard earned money that they used to buy a lot in that subdivision) for retirement or for whatever purposes they would have. If it’s more costly, I don’t think so, mas hindi ma quantify yung emotional and peace of mind (emotional cost and peace of mind cannot be quantified),” he said.

Dr. Anthony Alberto C. Anggala, MCEHAI director, maintained a railway should not be located inside the subdivision.

“Common sense will tell you that the railway is not supposed to be inside the subdivision, you don’t have to be a doctor or an engineer to just think about it. There is an option, a few meters away is a commercial area, another few meters away is the main highway, which in other countries, even in Manila is along the road,” he said.

He added it may cause traffic temporarily but if “you put it inside subdivision, it’s going to affect the families there and it’s going to be permanent.”

Zozobrado said in an interview on Saturday that they plan to pass a resolution prohibiting the construction of new structures along the path of the railway project in the city as the DOTr plans to proceed with the Tagum City-Davao City-Digos City line (TDD) line of the Mindanao Railway Project.

He said his committee has been conducting consultations with the affected stakeholders, the most recent on Thursday at the City Council where they invited property owners, particularly those from Monteritz, located along Diversion Road in Barangay Ma-a.

He said they will set another committee hearing with the property owners, as the DOTr promised to present its response to the concerns that the property owners raised during the last hearing.

The councilor said he wants all issues addressed before he would bring the proposed measure to the plenary for deliberation.

He said he has no target date for the filing of the proposed legislation, with only four months left before the 18th City Council will adjourn on June 30, 2019.

Eje told reporters after the consultation last Thursday there is no schedule yet for the ground breaking of the railway but added they are doing all they can to get it started the soonest because if this will “not be finished or even started within the term of the President, we will lose all our chances of having a better transport system in Mindanao.”

The 102-kilometer TDD  line would have eight stations, namely: Tagum; Carmen; Panabo; Mudiang in Bunawan, Davao City; Davao Terminal; Toril; Sta. Cruz; and Digos.

Eje heads the project management office (PMO) of the DOTr in the city to oversee the implementation of the railway project. The PMO, created through a  department order issued on November 23, 2017, was operationalized in January 2018.

“The councilor set a hearing to determine which properties will be affected by the alignment so that they (property owners) will be properly advised what particular areas will be prohibited for further structures,” he said.

He said they want the TDD line completed within three years upon approval by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Board. He said the government can negotiate for official development assistance from China upon approval of the NEDA-Board.

He said the NEDA-Investment Coordination Committee has tentatively scheduled to deliberate on the project’s change in scope and estimated cost on February 28, before it will be recommended for approval to the NEDA board. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)